And he divided the three hundred men into three companies and gave each man a trumpet in one hand and a large jar in the other, containing a torch.
I. THE ASSURANCE OF SUCCESS IS A HELP TOWARDS ATTAINING IT. Gideon had feared to attack the hosts of Midianites and Amalekites till he had discovered that they feared him; then he took courage and energy to devise the plan of victory. Too much diffidence is dangerous. Hope inspires with ingenuity as well as with courage; it is a brightness, an influence that enlivens thought. Therefore hope has its place in the first rank of Christian graces (1 Corinthians 13:13). The promises of the Bible are not only comforting, they are inspiring. Our great encouragement should be that the powers of evil fear Christ and his army.
II. THOUGHT IS SOMETIMES MORE NEEDFUL THAN FORCE. Gideon's victory was a triumph of thought, of contrivance. The right disposition of our energies is more important than the mere sum of them. It would be well if Christians practised on behalf of the cause of Christ the same wisdom which men of the world display in business, in politics, etc., so far as this is not inconsistent with perfect honour (Luke 16:8). Christ requires us to be wise and harmless (Matthew 10:16). Dulness is not holiness. Intellectual gifts should be consecrated to God, not despised as unfit for his service. The diplomatist and the tactitian may find work in the service of Christ. In mission work organisation, economy of strength, ingenious adaptation of means to ends should be carefully studied, and the gift of wisdom sought in addition to that of zeal.
III. MORAL INFLUENCE IS BETTER THAN PHYSICAL FORCE. Gideon had conquered before he had struck a blow. The dismay he created and the confusion this produced in the hostile camp secured him victory. Though we cannot be justified in descending to deception, we may aim at influencing others by thought and feeling rather than by direct physical means. Christianity is a triumph of ideas. It is a sign of intellectual and spiritual failure when the Church desires to effect by the aid of the law what she should have done by the influence of moral suasion, as in restraining immorality, etc.
IV. IGNORANCE IS WEAKNESS. The Midianites and Amalekites were ignorant of the number of Gideon's army, or they would not have been deceived. They were too self-confident to inquire, as Gideon had done, concerning their condition. Ignorance and superstition create imaginary foes. An evil conscience is quick to imagine danger (Proverbs 28:1). The terrors which surround us are worse in imagination than in reality. Darkness and ignorance make men their own worst enemies (ver. 22). - A.
1. I learn, in the first place, from this subject, the lawfulness of Christian stratagem. You all know what strategy is in military affairs. Now I think it is high time we had this art sanctified and spiritualised. In the Church, when we are about to make a Christian assault, we send word to the opposing force when we expect to come, how many troops we have, and of course we are defeated. There are thousands of men who might be surprised into the kingdom of God. We have not sufficient tact and ingenuity in Christian work. We have in the kingdom of God to-day enough troops to conquer the whole earth for Christ if we only had skilful manoeuvring.
Arise, for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.I. THE HAND OF THE LORD VISIBLE IN THIS DELIVERANCE.
1. In the general effect produced.
2. In the use of the particular means employed.
II. A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH'S EXPERIENCE IN EVERY AGE.
1. She is still surrounded by enemies numerous as the sand on the sea shore.
2. The enemies are a heterogeneous confederation. Science, philosophy, criticism, atheism, agnosticism, etc.
3. The attacks are persistently made.
4. Every possible advantage is on the side of the enemy. Truth is in the minority, and has always been exposed to the grossest misrepresentation.
5. The inherent power of Bible truth makes victory certain in the end.
(J. P. Millar.)
A trumpet... empty pitchers, and lampsI. Consider THE MORTAL AND MATERIAL PART OF MAN UNDER THE EMBLEM OF A PITCHER CONTAINING WITHIN IT A LAMP OR FIREBRAND.
1. The pitcher is made of potter's clay, even as man was formed of the dust of the ground.
2. Again, the pitcher's manufacture is brittle, and easily shattered into a thousand fragments.
3. Notice, as a final point of comparison, the intransparent character of the earthen vessel. If we desire to see the beauty and brilliancy of a light, and at the same time to preserve it from extinction by the rude breath of the atmosphere, we must perforce find for it a transparent medium of glass or crystal; hardly a ray will struggle out of the mouth of a pitcher. The human body is an inapt vehicle for certain strong and passionate emotions of the natural soul. We speak, for example, of a grief that is too deep for tears, and much more for the spiritual emotions of a holy and devout soul. Those emotions are rather hindered than furthered by the material body. The mortal frame is not a fitting tabernacle for the display of the exhibition of grace.
II. Consider THE LIGHT WITHIN THE PITCHER; the soul, or immaterial part of man, enclosed for the present within a material framework, the breath of lives breathed into the vessel of clay.
1. First, there is the animal life. And even this lowest species of life is very beautiful and glorious, and worthy of Him from whom it emanates. Like a flame it is most subtle, and, as it were, eludes the grasp and ken of man. How does it interpenetrate the whole realm of nature! And yet you cannot tell where it resides. It is transfused through matter without taking up its abode in any particular locality. Like a flame it glows in the ruddy cheek of health; like a flame it glances and sparkles in the sunlit stream; like a newly-kindled lamp it gradually dawns in the opening bosom of the flower. Learn to bless God for natural as well as for spiritual life.
2. But to turn to the second kind of life — rational — the life of the intellect. This, too, is a very subtle and very beautiful emanation from the Father of life. I spoke of animal life just now as diffused through the whole realm of matter. How does the keen and active intellect of man seek to explore and penetrate through all subjects and substances. How beautiful does the tide of words gush forth from the pen or from the lip! How is the reader or the audience carried along against his will, and captivated by the happiness and beauty of such discourse! And whence this happiness and beauty? It is the lamp of life-rational struggling forth, the spirit within the earthen pitcher; it is the fire-brand of the human mind shaking off on every side its lustrous sparkles.
3. But there was yet a higher life breathed into man at his first creation — spiritual life. And if the two former lives admit of a comparison with a lamp or a fire-brand, how much more apt is such a similitude to set forth the life of the immortal spirit. By the life of the spirit I mean that life which evinces itself in holy affections of joy, love, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. It resembles a flame principally in the circumstance that it aspires towards heaven. Like a flame, moreover, it has a wonderful property of self-propagation. Spiritual life kindled in one little dark corner of the earth will soon, by throwing out sparks as of a fire-brand, light up other beacons near and around it. And, finally, amongst those so brought, there subsists the warmth of spiritual intercourse, which is called, in the technical language of theology, the "communion of saints."
2. I learn from this subject also that a small part of the army of God will have to do all the hard fighting.
3. Again, I learn from this subject that God's way is different from man's, but is always the best way. If we had had the planning of that battle, we would have taken those thirty-two thousand men that originally belonged to the army, and we would have drifted them, and marched them up and down by the day, week, and month. But that is not the way. God depletes the army, and takes away all their weapons, and gives them a lamp, and a pitcher, and a trumpet, and tells them to go down and drive out the Midianites. I suppose some wiseacres were there who said, "That is not military tactics. The idea of three hundred men, unarmed, conquering such a great host of Midianites!" It was the best way. What sword, spear, or cannon ever accomplished such a victory as lamp, pitcher, and trumpet? God's way is different from man's way, but it is always best. Take, for instance, the composition of the Bible. If we had had the writing of the Bible, we would have said, "Let one man write it. If you have twenty or thirty men to write a poem, or make a statute, or write a history, or make an argument, there will be flaws and contradictions." But God says, "Let not one man do it, but forty men shall do it." And they did, differing enough to show there had been no collusion between them, but not contradicting each other on any important point. Instead of this Bible, which now I can lift in my hand — instead of the Bible that the child can carry to school — instead of the little Bible the sailor can put in his pocket when he goes to sea — if it had been left to men to write, it would have been a thousand volumes, judging from the amount of ecclesiastical controversy which has arisen. God's way is different from man's, but it is best, infinitely best. So it is in regard to the Christian life. If we had had the planning of a Christian life we would have said: "Let him have eighty years of sunshine, a fine house to live in; let his surroundings all be agreeable; let him have sound health; no trouble shadow his soul." I enjoy the prosperity of others so much I would let every man have as much money as he wants, and roses for his children's cheeks, and the fountains of gladness glancing in their large round eyes. But that is not God's way. It seems as if a man must be cut, and hit, and pounded, just in proportion as he is useful.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
I. A GOOD GENERAL IS LED, not by caprice, not by the promptings of ambition, not by the desire of spoil, not by the voice of an unthinking host, but by patriotism, by the love of humanity broadly considered, and by the leading of the Eternal.
II. A GOOD GENERAL LEADS. Gideon himself gave the example of brave deeds: took his part in the fray, ready to do, dare, die. Consider the Captain of our salvation. He goes before in every conflict.
III. A GOOD GENERAL INSPIRES. The men catch the burning enthusiasm of their leader.
IV. A GOOD GENERAL WISELY DISPOSES. Three companies. Christ places each where best for him.
V. A GOOD GENERAL SKILFULLY USES UNLIKELY WEAPONS. The ram's horn of gospel preaching more affectual than the silver trumpet of philosophy. Fishermen have beaten the savants. A tinker's the greatest name in modern literature. A cobbler a great missionary. A weaver mightiest of explorers.
VI. A GOOD GENERAL RAISES A GOOD BATTLE-CRY: "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon." Better than Napoleon's — "Gentlemen, remember that forty centuries are looking down upon you."
VII. A GOOD GENERAL MAKES GOOD SOLDIERS.
VIII. A GOOD GENERAL SECURES A GOOD ISSUE.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
I. THE STREET LAMP. This light is for the benefit of the public generally. But we have living street lamps as well. They give us moral and spiritual light. Every true Christian is a lamp, lit by God with the light of Christ, and is to be like the street lamp, giving light to the multitudes who pass by. And we ought to be unselfish, and whether in storm or sunshine we should show our light. And although one lamp does not seem to be of great importance, yet a number of them give us a light almost as good as the sun.
II. THE HOUSE LAMP. The first place where Christians ought to shine is at home. There we must stand up for Christ and show whose side we are on. Sometimes we find people ready to make a great profession in the street or at the meeting, but very different at home. They may thus deceive men, but they cannot deceive God.
III. THE PRIVATE LAMP OR LANTERN. This is a faithful companion to us when in the country on dark evenings. We are all travellers on life's journey, the way is strange, and the end hid from our view, and unless we can find lamp we must be eternally lost. We discover in Scripture the assurance that, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
IV. THE STABLE LAMP. This lamp would scarcely be suitable for the mansion, but it is well adapted for the stable. And among Christian lights we have some suited for one sphere and some for another.
V. THE LIGHTHOUSE LAMP. This is a stationary light, and as such is of great service. Let us as Christians seek to be as steady lights, contented with our lot and shining there. The lighthouse is a saving light. Multitudes have been saved by them. We as Christians ought to be saving lights. If we have been saved ourselves we must seek to save others.
N. Y. Evangelist.Each man had one, and each blew it as he joined in the assault. They did not leave this business to their leader alone. Just so should every Christian soldier make it his duty to proclaim the glad tidings of the kingdom of grace and redemption. Not that every private in the ranks is to aspire to be a Gideon — a captain of the army. A battalion cannot be all officers, whether the corps be Caesar's or Christ's. While all cannot guide and control the movement of the host, all can assert, with consenting voice and stroke, the merits of the cause for which it has taken the field. Every Christian is not called to the pulpit. But this is by no means the only method of publishing salvation. "Let him that heareth say, Come." They therefore mistake who think they have no word to utter for God. Every man blew his trumpet. They blew together — commander and followers. So do not always the men of Christ's army. While zeal for their Master may move the energies of part, others have lost sight of the point of successful assault, have loitered or laboured elsewhere very much to no purpose. Or their note is a dispiriting one, sounding a retreat rather than an onward, resolute movement. Their tones of brooding discontent spread discouragement through the whole encampment. Gideon and the three hundred blew their trumpets together. It not unfrequently happens that the minister blows one note, but many of his band a very different one. How many sermons preached in the fear of God, on the Sabbath, are utterly negatived by professed believers of the gospel in the family, the workshop, the counting-house. Look at this common and mischievous habit among Church members. Men and women of Israel, remember that if the Church is to speak effectually for God in the ear of a disobedient world, it must speak in unison, in harmony.
(N. Y. Evangelist.)
The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon
I. THE FACT OF THIS UNION. As the planet flies swiftly in its orbit, impelled by the opposing centripetal and centrifugal powers; as the path of the ship is the result of the combined action of wind and helm; as the body of man moves freely over the solid ground, finely balanced between earth, air, and sun; so the path of the soul is the result of the combined action of heaven and earth. The breath of the Divine Spirit fills the sails, and the little helm of the human will is allowed to modify the course.
1. The union of the Divine and the human in the operations of nature. God created paradise and led man into it; but He did not leave His creature to a life of idleness. He put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. The fruits of the earth were to be matured by the touch of man as well as by the power of God. As the seasons revolve in their beauty and variety, the creature has always to unite his energies with those of the Creator to bring the harvest forth. And what is all art and science but man following God, imitating God, working with God? Man looks upon the works of God; and from the union of his beholding mind with these fair forms there come forth the creations of art — the inspired poem, the pale statue, and the coloured canvas. These productions are the combined result of that inspiration which the Almighty has given, and the artist's own earnest labour. The result is cut out by "the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon."
2. The union of the Divine and the human in the administration of secular affairs. What is the true idea of government? Is it not that of a theocracy, or a world in which God is king — a world in which every king is clothed with power as Gideon was, and in which every magistrate's sword is the sword of the Lord as well?
3. More directly is it seen in the individual Christian life that the power of God is working with the power of man. Conversion is pre-eminently a work of God. It is a new creation, and God is the Creator. The wounds of conviction are made by the sword of the Lord. We are born again of God. At the same time, it is no less clear in Scripture that conversion is a work in which man himself must play a part. There is an act of the Divine will, but there is also an act of the human will. We are "justified by faith," and faith is an act of the mind. Every righteous action performed is a fruit both of the Divine Spirit and the human spirit. Every true and believing prayer is at once an inspiration of man and an inspiration of God. In the warfare of the soul the Divine arm and the human arm must both be lifted against the foe; and it is still "the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon," that gains the victory. To the same effect are those wonderful words, "Work out your own salvation... for it is God who worketh in you," etc.
4. The union of the human and the Divine in the work of spreading the gospel.
II. THE INVISIBLE RELATION OF THE TWO POWERS. We cannot draw a line between the two, and say, "There the Divine ends, and here the human begins: up to this point God has been the worker; after that man is the worker." As the battle goes on, we cannot say, "On yonder part of the field are the heavenly forces, and on this part the earthly forces." We cannot say, "Now God has laid down the sword, and now man has taken it up." The two energies are blended in such invisible relation and mysterious co-operation that we cannot thus distinguish them. There is but one sword between the Lord and Gideon; and both grasp the hilt at the same time.
III. THE WISDOM AND ADVANTAGE OF THIS ARRANGEMENT.
1. It reveals to us the dignity and solemnity of life. We are fellow-labourers with God. We are grasping and wielding the same sword. This truth invests life with the highest sacredness and solemnity. If it does not derogate from God's dignity to work, it cannot derogate from man's. The dignity that comports with or consists in idleness is altogether foreign to true elevation of life.
2. While this co-operation is fitted to lift us up, it is also fitted to cast us down. True humility is wrought in us by the increasing realisation of God's existence and presence. His majesty looks down upon us and His holiness looks in upon us evermore. Earthly honours inflate and pamper the vanity of the human heart, but heavenly honours humble still more the heavenly.
3. The combination of entire dependence upon God with the greatest individual activity. What a blessed thing it is to have the arm of the Almighty to lean upon in our daily life! Dependence upon others is not always desirable; but dependence upon God is our very life and strength. The former has a tendency to produce servility and inactivity, the latter leads to the greatest activity. Those who believe most entirely that everything depends upon God at the same time work as energetically as if everything depended on themselves. Those who have done most good in the world are those who have ascribed all goodness to God.
4. Since God is a worker, the success of His work is certain; but since we also are workers, we should be filled with fear lest we be found unfaithful and fall short at last. The fact that an army has a great general — one who is a host in himself, one sure to lead to victory, does not make the men who fight under him indifferent as to how they fight. It makes them fight all the better. It inspires them with an almost superhuman power. Under the leadership of God, then, what great deeds might we not accomplish, if we had faith to follow Him more closely! With what joy might we even fall in the fight, when we know that the day is already ours! But the practical point for every believer is, that a certain portion of the work is entrusted to him. What an awful responsibility! What a value does this give to time!
(F. Ferguson, D. D.)
1. God commits to each of us a lamp or torch, which is to be trimmed and kept bright through life. Every man has his own torch; his own peculiar powers of mind and body; his own individual character; his own special post in life, and opportunities of influencing others for good or for evil. The work we do and the example we show — this, in short, is the torch we hold as trust from God, who says to each of us, as He said to the Jews of old, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
2. But then, in the second place, we learn that our lamps, like those of Gideon's band, must not be displayed until the proper moment arrives for them to be seen. For awhile they must be concealed, as it were, within empty pitchers. Our characters are not formed, we are not fitted for the work of life, in a moment. Hence those years of school discipline through which we have all passed. This season of preparatory culture and seclusion is as necessary for us men as it was for "the Son of Man," who, for thirty years, during which He prepared Himself for His short ministry, lived a life of retirement and subjection at Nazareth. In His career on earth there was no precocious self-assertion, no premature display. But the time comes when we are each summoned to leave the life of preparation and enter upon our life of work in the world, and then, if we be true servants of God, and neither cowards nor slaves to self, we shall be ready to cast aside the empty pitcher, and hold up before men's eyes a well-trimmed lamp.
3. And then, lastly, there are the trumpets. Just as the torch means man's work and knowledge and character, and the pitcher represents the method by which he receives and matures his light until the hour comes for revealing it, so the trumpet typifies the sound of the human voice, the power with which, by precept and exhortation, by uttered principle and uncompromising assertion of truth, we carry the gospel of Christ into the world. There are so many time-servers amongst men, who will not dare to confess what they believe to be true and know to be right, if it happens to conflict with the popular notions of society. They reserve their principles for congenial company, where they will be safe from contradiction, and they go about the world agreeing, like sycophants, with anything and everybody. But let such men remember that the world owes its highest good to those who have had the courage of their convictions. They are the messengers of truth and of God. "Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the earth." We have thus arrived at the full meaning of that battle-cry, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon." It is the motto of our Christian profession. It expresses in a symbol the bloodless victory of the Christian life, through Christ our Lord: the victory which is won with no earthly weapon, but with the "sword of the Spirit."
(H. E. J. Bevan, M. A.)
I. WE WILL FIRST NOTICE THEIR UNITY. There were no divisions, no quarrels, no mutinies among them. They stood as they were ordered to stand. Does not this speak to us and with a loud voice? Have the hundreds of God's hosts to-day that spirit of unity which should mark all the soldiers of the Cross? Have we always obeyed orders from headquarters? If the soldiers in the ranks of the armies of the living God could only forget all party difference, and cease to contend about minute distinctions, and present a united front, the kingdom of darkness would soon receive such blows as would make it totter and reel. We have many illustrations in the history of Christianity, of what can be done by a united Church of God.
II. LET US NOW NOTICE THEIR COURAGE. Had they been Englishmen they could not have displayed more fibre and courage than was shown, In its conflict with the world the Church needs men of courage. There never was a time it more needed them than now. There are many great and pressing social and religious problems which need attention and require men of courage and faith to deal with them; and in all her work she needs men of brave hearts and true, who are not easily daunted. She wants brave officers to serve in her ranks — men of skill, piety, and courage. She wants the best sons and daughters in her ranks. She is charged with the responsibility of the salvation of the world. She has to make greater inroads into the ranks of the enemy. God is with us, and God can make us brave and bold.
III. BUT WE MUST NOW NOTICE THE FAITH OF THESE MEN. It was a victory of faith. Oh, what a theme for contemplation the victories of faith furnish! The Church needs men of faith to-day. This is an age of scepticism, of doubt, and criticism. It has become almost fashionable to talk about doubting as if it were a mark of strength and special attainment to do so. The Church wants men who live in the sunshine of strong heroic faith and power. She wants men who can, in mighty faith, march round the strongholds of sin, just as the Israelites marched around ancient Jericho. She needs men who can go with Bible in hand and win victories for God.
IV. IN CONCLUSION, WE WILL BRIEFLY NOTICE THE SUCCESS THEY EXPERIENCED. It was complete. They stood in order round the camp as they were commanded. At the given signal they raised their shouts, broke their pitchers, and flashed their torches. They stood and watched the consternation of the enemy. It was a victory which was God-given and full. The history of the Church of Christ abounds with God-given victories. The victories of the past are to be far surpassed in the future.
(C. Leach, D. D.)I. SOME OF THE EVENTS IN WHICH WE BEHOLD THE CO-OPERATION OF THE NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL.
1. In providence.
2. In conversion.
3. In the sustenance of a religious life.
4. In the propagation of the gospel.
II. THAT THE CO-OPERATION OF THE NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL IS NECESSARY TO ENSURE SUCCESS.
1. This is the only way success is to he expected.
2. This is the only way in which success is possible.
3. The co-operation of the natural and supernatural makes success certain.
III. PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. We should endeavour to form a true estimate of ourselves. We can do a little, but cannot do all.
2. Learn to acknowledge the Lord in every success.
(D. Lewis.)I. THE BRAVE COMPANY WITH WHICH HE ATTACKED THE FOE.
II. THE BATTLE-CRY OF GIDEON AND HIS GALLANT THREE HUNDRED.
1. The first secret of their strength was that they all realised that the battle they had to fight was not their own, but God's. A man may fight very hard for himself, yet there is a point at which heroism inspired by self-interest fails; but let it be inspired by the love of another, and let that love be centred in an object worthy of the greatest daring, and there you will find a courage which is simply transcendent and irresistible. Look at the men who have wrought the greatest deeds on earth, and you will find that the first thing they emphasised was just this, "We are not come out in our own cause and our own strength, but God's." There would not be sufficient inspiration in any other cause to enable them to meet such overwhelming odds as those which they met with unfaltering step, and at length overcame.
2. As the battle was the Lord's, so the weapons were His: "The sword of the Lord." You notice how Paul emphasises the same truth — "Put on the whole armour of God"; and again, "Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?" If we are to be God's soldiers we must be armed with His weapons. A young man enlists in the army; there is a sword given to him; it is not a sword he has had made for himself, but one that has been submitted to certain tests, though, alas! they have been more imaginary than real occasionally. It is the Queen's sword, and as such it is her will that it shall be so made as to be worthy of the mettle of every soldier who will wield it and of the empire that supplies it. The soldier is not allowed to risk his life by getting his village blacksmith to make one for him. There must be the stamp of the Government upon it. The battle is the Queen's and the sword is the Queen's; and when the soldier gets that sword he feels that the whole British Empire has staked its credit largely upon the quality of that sword, as well as the courage of the man who has accepted it. The fact that the Queen supplies the sword, and that it represents the power and the righteousness of the country whom he serves, adds vigour to his arm and determination to his assault. So is it with us. We, as the soldiers of Christ, have the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and, thank God, this has never snapped yet in our hands.
3. In a glorious sense Gideon was joint possessor with the Lord of the sword he wielded: "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon." There was no blasphemy in this cry; it was a humble recognition of the fact that God had taken Gideon into His service, and into joint possession of the sword with which Gideon fought. Once again, referring to the ordinary soldier, you ask him, "Whose sword is that?" He replies, "It is mine." Yet he never made it, and never purchased it. You say to him, "Nay, but it is the Queen's sword." He replies, "The Queen gave it me." You add, "Then it is yours." "Yes, the Queen's — and mine"; and it is in that conjunction, "and," which joins the Queen to the poor soldier, that we find the secret of his prowess on the battlefield. Just so here, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon," was the cry which imparted more than human strength to Gideon and his soldiers. God's warriors have to fight with the world and its evil. The sword is the Lord's, but it is also ours. It is given us so that we may make the best use of it, and that every man who has enlisted in Christ's army can say in the same breath, "It is God's battle and mine."
(D. Davies.)I. THE COMPANIES ENGAGED. Happy is he who is numbered among the three hundred. Be it so that he is in the minority. Many have forsaken him, more are against him. But he is invincible for all that, as long as he does battle with but one weapon, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon."
II. THE TRUMPET'S BLAST. Never did means appear more contemptible than those employed by Gideon. Thus the Lord teaches us that means are weak or strong just according to His appointment. Weak means are strong, powerful, and all-prevailing, when He ordains the end to be fulfilled by them. When God blesses, the worm Jacob can lift up his head, and thresh the mountains. But the mightiest instruments are naught without His blessing. Now, we have here, in the trumpet's blast, the pitchers broken, and the lamps held forth, striking and appropriate emblems of the preaching of the gospel. They are fit emblems of the weakness of the instrument and of the power of its effects. The preaching of the everlasting gospel is as the blowing of Gideon's trumpets. How apparently inadequate the means to the end! How weak, how foolish! "Men must be fanatics to suppose that men's evil passions will be subdued, that the love of sin will be uprooted, that their affections will ever be turned heavenward, by preaching nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Human nature," says the world, "needs something different. If you wish to convert the heathen, civilise them first, and then preach the gospel to them." But let us turn from man to God. He who made the trumpet, knew full well its power. He would not put the trumpet into our hands and bid us blow if the breath of His power were not ready to go forth with the blast. The dead in trespasses and sins hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear do live, and live for ever. Whilst uncertain sounds, a gospel which is not the gospel, settle men in their sins, and cause sport to devils, the clear blast of this trumpet shakes the infernal kingdom to its centre, spreads jubilee among the slaves of earth, and awakens joy in the presence of angels. We pause to ask, have these gladsome notes sounded in your ears in the dead night of your soul? Have you been awakened by the loud blasts of the gospel trumpet?
III. THE PITCHERS BROKEN. Earthen pitchers seemed to be of all things the most absurd to fight with. The three companies might do some execution were they fully equipped. Trumpets might alarm and terrify, but what could pitchers do? How astonished must have been these three hundred men when Gideon said, "Arm yourselves with pitchers"! The result proved the efficiency of these contemptible instruments. They did what no sword, no battle-axe, no spear could do. They held the lights, they contained the lamps. They were nothing in themselves, but they were everything to the enterprise. Now, we have in these pitchers a striking emblem of the ministers of the gospel. They are earthen vessels, carrying the lamp of life. We ask, then — and does not the value of your never-dying interests compel us to ask you? — have you seen this light? have you been guided by that lamp? Has it shone into your mind, and given you the saving knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? Has it been the power of God unto your salvation?
(G. A. Rogers, M. A.).
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