Leviticus 26:3
Religion has the first claim upon us as the supreme obligation of the soul. We are hound to worship and honour God because we owe far more to him than to all other beings in the universe. The first and all-sufficient reason why we should "worship and bow down" before him, is in the fact that "he is our God" - that One from whom we come, in whom we live, from whom cometh down every good gift. But God condescends to urge us to obedience by presenting incentives to our minds. He wishes us to consider that he has made it infinitely remunerative for us to do so; that, by so doing, we become recipients of the largest blessings he can confer and we can receive. There is so much of contrast as well as comparison between the blessings of the old and the new dispensations, that we must divide our subject into two parts.

I. THE INCENTIVES WHICH GOD HELD OUT TO HIS ANCIENT PEOPLE. These were importantly spiritual, but prominently temporal. If they did but "walk in his statutes, and keep his commandments, and do them" (verse 3), they might reckon on

(1) fertility in the field (verses 4, 5, 10);

(2) sense of security from without and disturbance from within (safety and peace, verses 5, 6);

(3) victory in war (verses 7, 8);

(4) national growth (verse 9);

(5) God's presence with them (verses 11, 12);

(6) his pleasure in them (verse 11); and

(7) his guarantee of their liberty and self-respect (verse 13).

II. THE PROMISES WHICH HE HAS MADE TO US. These are partly temporal, but principally spiritual. They include:

1. Sufficiency of worldly substance. God does not now say, "Serve me, and you shall be strong, wealthy, long-lived," but he does say, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God,... and all these things" (food, clothing, etc.) "shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). "Godliness has promise of the life that now is" (1 Timothy 4:8). Those who are his children in Christ Jesus may reckon upon all needful support from his bountiful hand.

2. Consciousness of spiritual integrity. As God made his people to be delivered from the yoke and to "go upright" (verse 13), so he makes those who have returned to him, and who have escaped from the yoke of sin, to "walk in uprightness of heart." Instead of shrinking in fear, bowing down with a depressing sense of wrong-doing, we have a happy consciousness of integrity of soul. We say with the psalmist, "As for me," etc. (Psalm 41:12).

3. Sense of reconciliation with God. God promises peace and a sense of safety (verses 5, 6) to those who seek his favour in Christ Jesus. Being justified by faith in him, we have peace with God; and we know that, whatever may be our circumstances, we are secure behind the shield of his almighty love.

4. Victory in the battle of life. If it be not wholly true that "our life is but a battle and a march," yet it is true that there is so much of spiritual struggle in it, from its beginning to its close, that we all understand only too well what is meant by "the battle of life." There are many foes with which to wrestle (Ephesians 6:12), and we need the invigorating power which only the Spirit of the Strong One can impart. If we are his, he will help us in the strife. "Our enemies will fall before us" (verse 7; see 2 Corinthians 2:14 and Romans 8:37).

5. His presence with us and his pleasure in us. "God will set his tabernacle among us;" he "will walk among us" (verses 11, 12). He will be "with us always," and his sustaining presence will uphold us in the darkest hour, in the most trying scene. "His soul will not abhor us" (verse 11); he will take Divine pleasure in us; we shall be his children, his guests, his friends, his heirs.

6. An everlasting heritage in him. He will be our God (verse 12). The sacred page does not speak of any duration; but that which is adumbrated in the Old Testament is revealed in the New. Jesus Christ has brought life and immortality out into the light, and we know that "him that overcometh will the Son of man make a pillar in the temple of his God, and he shall go no more out," etc. (Revelation 3:12), and that "to him that overcometh will he grant to sit with him on his throne," etc. (Revelation 3:21). The present and the future, the best of the one and the whole of the other, are the heritage of those who "know the will of God and do it." Surely it is the choice of the wise to "make haste and delay not to keep his commandments." - C.







If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them.
I. WHEREIN A NATION'S RELIGIOUS LIFE CONSISTS. The recognised presence of God in the midst of the people (vers. 11, 12) may be realised —

1. In sanctuaries consecrated to Divine worship throughout the land, and in assembled congregations gathering to adore Him (ver. 2).

2. In sacred literature diffusing religious knowledge among the people.

3. In benevolent and elevating institutions diffusing Christianity in its practical forms.

4. In educational agencies for the training of children early in moral and religious truth.

5. In homes and family life sweetened by the influence of piety.

6. In a legislature ruled by the fear of God and observant of Scripture precepts.

7. In wealth, gathered righteously, being expended for evangelical and Christian ends.

8. In the happy relationship of all social classes, based upon goodwill and respect.

9. In the stores of harvest and gains of commerce being acknowledged as God's providential gifts and generous benefactions (vers. 4, 5). All such public recognitions of the authority and the claims of religion, emphasise and declare that within this nation's life God dwells — known, revered, and served.

II. ADVANTAGES WHICH RESULT TO A NATION FROM RELIGION.

1. Religion impels to industry, intelligence, self-respect, and social improvement; and these will affect every branch of labour and enterprise, resulting in material prosperity (vers. 4, 5).

2. Religion leads to avoidance of agitation and conflict, checks greed, ambition, and vainglory, and thus promotes a wise content among the people, and peaceful relationships with surrounding nations (ver. 6).

3. Religion fosters sobriety, energy, and courage, and these qualities will assert themselves on the fields of war when sad occasion arises, and will ensure the overthrow of tyranny and the defeat of invasion (ver. 8).

4. Religion nurtures the wise oversight of homes and families, the preservation of domestic purity, the development of healthful and intelligent children, and these will work out in a strong and increasing population (ver. 9).

5. Religion corrects the intrigues of self-destructive commerce, and teaches honesty, forethought, and justice in business arrangements; thus checking waste, extravagance, and insolence, and these issue in the enjoyment of plenty (ver. 10).

6. Religion enjoins Sabbath observance and sanctuary services (ver. 2) which nourish holiness in thought and life, sweeten character, purify the springs of action, incite to righteous and noble deeds, to social goodwill, to mutual regard, to sacred ministries, to reverence for Scripture, to recognition of the claims of the unseen world, and thus bring down upon all people the blessings of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (vers. 11, 12).

III. WITHIN A RELIGIOUS NATION GOD PLEDGES HIMSELF TO DWELL. And where He makes His tabernacle (ver. 11) there —

1. Happiness will be realised, the joy of the Lord will be known, "His lovingkindness, which is more than life," will be enjoyed.

2. Security will be assured. "None make you afraid" (ver. 6), for He will be as a "defence to His people."

3. Sanctity will flourish. Intercourse with God (ver. 12) will elevate, refine, and grace a people's character and life.

(W. H. Jellie.)

These temporal blessings — peace's victory over all their enemies, the fruitfulness of the land, the enjoyment of God's tabernacle in the midst of it — all are promised to obedience. This is still true of nations. Nations that are highest in Christian character will always be highest in every other national blessing. Just cast your eyes over the map of Europe; and if you had a thermometer, and could gauge the amount of living Christianity in each nation, you will find that the nation in which Christianity is purest, rises highest, spreads the farthest, descends the deepest, is the very nation that is highest in all that dignifies, ennobles, and blesses a nation. And so, in our own native land, the victory of our armies in the righteous warfare to which it is committed, the maintenance of our land in peace and prosperity against all foe and all invasion, will rest, not only upon the banners of our brave troops, not only upon the gallantry of our heroic sailors, but far more upon the living religion that saturates the masses of our country. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation, and sin is the ruin of a nation. If you will read the history of nations, you will find this universally true; no nation ever falls before a foreign foe — it always commits suicide. Nations die suicides; they are self-slain. Rome fell only because of its inner corruption; the beautiful sisterhood of Greek states fell by their universal depravity; and our nation will never fall before a foreign foe as long as it is — what it is now in a greater degree than any other — a nation that fears God, and works righteousness, and counts the sunshine of His favour more precious than gold and silver, and whatsoever things may be weighed or bought.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

A Fingo, traveling through Hankey, where the L.M.S. have a station, sat down to rest at the door of the place of worship; and looking round on the houses, behind which the gardens were concealed, asked one of the deacons how the people got food in such a place, for he had formerly known it as a desert. The deacon told him to look at him and see if he was not in health and well clothed. He then called a fine child, and told the man to look at it and see if it was not well fed. The deacon then told him if he would attend service the next day he would see that it was so with them all. The Fingo rose to depart, and lifting up his eyes and his right hand to heaven, exclaimed, "It is always so where that God is worshipped!"

(Andrew Thomson, D. D.)

There is in ver. 10 a promise as to the fulness of the Divine gifts, which has a far wider reach and nobler application than to the harvests and granaries of old Palestine. We may take the words in that aspect, first, as containing God's pledge that these outward gifts shall come in unbroken continuity. And have they not so come to us all, for all these long years? Has there ever been a gap left yawning? has there ever been a break in the chain of mercies and supplies? has it not rather been that "one post ran to meet another"? that before one of the messengers had unladed all his budget, another's arrival has antiquated and put aside his store? "Things grown common lose their dear delight." "If in His gifts and benefits He were more sparing and close-handed," said Luther, "we should learn to be thankful." But let us learn it by the continuity of our joys, that we may not need to be taught by their interruption; and let us still all tremulous anticipation of possible failure or certain loss by the happy confidence which we have a right to cherish, that His mercies will meet our needs, continuous as they are, and be threaded so close together on the poor thread of our lives that no gap will be discernible in the jewelled circle. May we not apply that same thought of the unbroken continuity of God's gifts to the higher region of our spiritual experience? His supplies of wisdom, love, joy, peace, power to our souls, are always enough, and more than enough, for our wants. If ever men complain of languishing vitality in their religious emotions, or of a stinted supply of food for their truest self, it is their own fault, not His. He means that there should be no parentheses of famine in our Christian life. It is not His doing if times of torpor alternate with seasons of quick energy and joyful fulness of life. So far as He is concerned the fiery is uninterrupted, and if it come to us in jets and spurts like some intermittent well, it is because our own evil has put some obstacles to choke the channel and dam out His Spirit from our spirits. The source is full to overflowing, and there are no limits to the supply. The only limit is our capacity, which again is largely determined by our desire. So after all His gifts there is more yet unreceived to possess. After all His self-revelation there is more yet unspoken to declare. Great as is the goodness which He has wrought before the sons of men for them that trust in Him, there are far greater treasures of goodness laid up in the deep mines of God for them that fear Him. Bars of uncoined treasure and ingots of massy gold lie in His storehouses, to be put into circulation as soon as we need, and can use them.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Ye shall make you no idols.
I. WHAT THE PRONENESS OF HUMAN NATURE TO IDOLATRY SUGGESTS. It shows both the dignity and depravity of man; that —

1. He is endowed with religious instincts. Capable of worship, of exercising faith, hope, love, reverence, fear, &c.

2. He is conscious of amenability to some supreme power. Seeks to propitiate, secure favour, and aid.

3. He is apprehensive of a future state of existence. Ideas vague, indefinite, absurd, yet the outcome of inward presentiment, &c.

4. He is unable by light of nature to discover God. His knowledge is so faded, light so dim. How low the soul must have fallen to substitute "nothings" for the Eternal One! Heathenism has never of itself emerged into the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, as seen in the voice that has spoken from heaven, and has been recorded by holy men moved by the Holy Ghost.

II. WHAT INDULGENCE IN IDOLATRY ENTAILS.

1. Degradation. Worship of heathen deities demoralising. In their temples, at their services, the rites observed are grovelling, and, in some instances, demoniacal.

2. Superstition. Devotees are duped by priests, enslaved by torturing ritualism, subject and victims of absurd delusions.

3. Misery. Fear the ruling passion, not love. Nothing ennobling, inspiring, quickening, comforting. Idol worship mocks the longings of the human soul, cannot appease its hunger, satisfy its thirst.

III. How IDOLATRY MAY BE ABOLISHED. Darkness can only be dispersed by the letting in of light. The folly of idolatry must be shown, its helplessness, misery, sin by the spread of the written revelation of heaven, the preaching of the glorious gospel.

(F. W. Brown.)

There are many who make light of the common worship of the sanctuary, and who are in the habit of depreciating the interest and value of its influences. They tell us that Nature's temple is far grander than any human shrine; that the voices of the birds are a sweeter minstrelsy than that of a mediocre choir; that they find "sermons in stones" whose eloquence is mightier and more penetrating than that of a poor preacher with his string of stale platitudes; and that, therefore, a pleasant country walk is more profitable and sanctifying than an hour spent in the stuffy atmosphere of church or chapel. Nay, even their own fireside has more powerful charms, for have they not Bibles at home, and cannot they read for themselves? and can they not obtain far better sermons for a few pence per volume than they are likely to hear? No doubt there is much truth in such reasoning, but it ignores the social needs of human nature. Man is a social being; social worship is therefore a necessity of his nature. And its necessity has been universally felt. "Groves, mountains, grottoes, caves, streams, valleys, plains, lakes, as well as altars and temples, have been consecrated as the abodes of gods." Everywhere men have sought out some shrine at which to offer common and united worship. And in Christian ages the house of prayer has ever been held in honour, and its services regarded as hallowed privileges by the best and wisest men. They meet a deep-seated need of human hearts. As Dr. Geikie has said, "There is a breadth of human experience, and of understanding of Divine things to be obtained in the great congregation, in the common confessions, the common prayers, the common praises, the common exhortation of the sanctuary, which would be sought in vain in solitudes." As long as human nature is unchanged, the place of public worship cannot be superseded.

(Howard James.)

Yes, the orthodox Greek Churchman is grievously scandalised at the image-worship of the Romanist; it is flat idolatry, and he denounces it vehemently. But what are those pictures, many of them made to stand out with solid plates of gold and silver? Why, these are pictures of the Virgin or of her Son, as the case may be, and your anti-idolatrous Greek bows before these with voluntary humility. He hates image-worship, you see, but stands up for picture-worship. Behold how sinners disagree in name and unite in spirit! Put Greek and Roman in a sack together and let the greatest idolater out first: the wisest solution would be to keep them both in, for Solomon himself would be puzzled to decide between them. Are there no such inconsistencies among ourselves? Do we not condemn in one form what we allow in another? Do we not censure in our neighbours what we allow in ourselves? This query need not be answered in a hurry; the reply will be the more extensive for a little waiting.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Then I will give you rain.
To understand the philosophy of this beautiful and often sublime phenomenon, so often witnessed since the creation of the world, and essential to the very existence of plants and animals, a few facts derived from observation and a long train of experiments must be remembered.

1. Were the atmosphere everywhere at all times at a uniform temperature, we should never have rain, or hail, or snow; the water absorbed by it in evaporation from the sea and the earth's surface would descend in an imperceptible vapour, or cease to be absorbed by the air when it was once fully saturated.

2. The absorbing power of the atmosphere, and consequently its capability to retain humidity, is proportionably greater in warm than in cold air.

3. The air near the surface of the earth is warmer than it is in the region of the clouds. The higher we ascend from the earth the colder do we find the atmosphere. Hence the perpetual snow on very high mountains in the hottest climate. Now, when from continued evaporation the air is highly saturated with vapour, though, if it be invisible and the sky cloudless, if its temperature be suddenly reduced by cold currents descending from above, or rushing from a higher to a lower latitude, its capacity to retain moisture is diminished, clouds are formed, and the result is rain. Air condenses as it cools, and like a sponge filled with water and compressed, pours out the water which its diminished capacity cannot hold. How singular, yet how simple, the philosophy of rain! Who but Omniscience could have devised such an admirable arrangement for watering the earth?

(Dr. Ure.)

St. , speaking of great drought in his time, when the people talked much of rain, he sometimes comforted himself with this hope, Neomenia dabit pluvias ("The new moon will bring us rain"); yet saith he, "Though all of us desired to see some showers, yet I wished such hopes might fail, and was glad that no rain fell, donec precibus ecclesia data esset, &c., until it came as a return upon the Church's prayers, not upon the influence of the moon, but upon the provident mercy of the Creator." Such was the religious care of that good saint then, and the like were to be wished for now, that men would be exhorted not to be so much taken as they are with the vanity of astrological predictions, to read the stars less and the Scriptures more, to eye God in His providence, not the moon so much in its influence, still looking up unto Him as the primus motor, and upon all other creatures whatsoever as subordinate.

(J. Spencer.)

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