Educated Towards Spirituality
How to introduce the spiritual element into all this instruction of an external and formal kind was the difficulty even of inspiration. We have felt all along that the speeches and instructions delivered to Israel meant, as to their purpose and issue, something that was not expressed. We now come to find an indication of that which is intensely spiritual. The method of its introduction is—so it may be said, with reverence—infinitely skilled. Great prizes of land were offered, wonderful donations of milk and honey and harvest, and as for springs and fountains of water, they were to rise in perennial fulness and beauty. What wonder if considerable eagerness should mark the spirit of the men to whom such promises were delivered? Who would not be eager for land flowing with milk and honey, green all the year round because of the abounding waters, smiling with fruitfulness because of the blessing of God? But this could never be enough: the promises cannot end in themselves; when they have been uttered they quiver with an unexpressed meaning. To bring that meaning under the attention so as to secure the confidence of the people God will set aside a tribe that is to have no land. That was a subtle revelation of ulterior design. Out of that arrangement was to come the inspiration that foretold the passing away of the heavens and the dissolution of the earth and the destruction of all things material as no longer worth holding. All things have beginnings. The greatest literature traces itself back to its alphabet. Levi is set forth as a spiritual symbol. "Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren." Is he then poor? Read the answer in chapter Deuteronomy 10:9 — "The Lord is his inheritance, according as the Lord thy God promised him." That was the lot of Levi. Is not that an anticipation of the words which make all other instruction mean—"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you"? It was well to have some men who had no land, no golden harvest, no storehouses rich with grain. They were the schoolmasters of the time—the great spiritual philosophers and teachers, not knowing themselves what they typified, still being there, the mystery of life, a symbol of the sublime doctrine that men shall not live by bread alone. Out of these incidental lines of history gathers a great apocalypse of progress. The one tribe will presently absorb the other tribe, and at the last we shall all be kings and priests unto God; and if globes were offered to us, constellations and whole firmaments of glory, instead of nearness to the divine presence, we should scorn the mean donation. To that height we have to grow; to that issue all things will come that yield themselves to the movement of the divine purpose.
We have read all the arrangements made for the ceremonial worship of Israel: what was the meaning of it? Here we come again upon the same thought of ultimate spirituality. Moses now, in the latter time, begins to reveal secrets. He gave Israel long space in which to kill animals and offer them by fire: he utterly wearied out the people by such impotent ritual, and when they themselves began to turn their very weariness into a kind of religious hope that surely something brighter would presently be revealed, Moses spake these words:—"And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee?" That is the question. What does it all mean? Thou hast slain thousands of bullocks and rams and sheep and goats, "what doth the Lord thy God require of thee"—what has he been meaning all this time,—"but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?" ( Deuteronomy 10:12-13). That was the divine intention from the very beginning. God does not disclose his purpose all at once, but out of consideration for our capacities and our opportunities and our necessities he leads us one step at a time, as the wise teacher leads the young scholar. What wise teacher thrusts a whole library upon the dawning mind of childhood? A picture, a toy, a tempting prize, a handful to be going on with, and all the rest covered by a genial smile: so the young scholar passes from page to page until the genius of the revelation seizes him, and life becomes a sacred Pentecost. Such words spoken to Israel at first would have been lost. There is a time for revelation; as certainly as for Prayer of Manasseh, so certainly for God, there is a time to speak, there is a time to be silent. It is a sublime addition to our knowledge to realise the divine purpose, that all letters, words, buildings, books, mean life, union with God, absorption into God. Preachers and books and pulpits and altars and buildings are of use at the time, for the time most useful, in many cases indispensable; but the issue of it all is perfect union with the Father of our spirits, knowing him from within, a perfect correspondence of our nature with his nature and his purpose; not a word spoken, a look exchanged, nor an attitude but becomes a sacrifice. This thought supplies a standard by which to measure progress. Where are we? To what have we attained? What is our stature today? Are we still among the beggarly elements? Do we still cry out for a kind of teaching that is infantile and that ought to be from our age altogether profitless? Or do we sigh to see the finer lines and hear the lower tones and enter into the mystery of silent worship—so highly strung in all holy sensibilities that even a word jars upon us and is out of place under circumstances so charged with the divine presence?
Still keeping by this same line of thought, notice how the promises were adapted to the mental condition of Israel. What promises could Israel understand? Only promises of the most substantial kind. Moses addresses himself to this necessity with infinite skill:—"Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the Lord thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude" ( Deuteronomy 10:22). Israel cared nothing for thoughts: Israel cared for children: Israel knew not the poetry and the divinity of things: Israel understood acres, land upon land far-stretching, and harvests larger than any garners ever built. This being the mental condition of Israel, give Israel troops of children, thousands upon thousands outnumbering the stars,—a tumultuous throng, too vast for the space of the wilderness; as for harvests, let them grow upon the rocks, let the very stones burst into golden grain, for Israel is a great child and can understand only things that can be handled: let him have such things, more and more; God means them to be altar-steps leading upward, onward, into the place where there is no need of the sun or of the moon, no death, no night; Israel has a long journey to go, and he must be well housed and harvested on the road, or he will give way and fail before the time set for the fulness of the divine revelation. The same thought is expressed in many ways. It is given in chapter Deuteronomy 11:11-12 — "But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: a land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year." What a child was Israel; what an infant of days; keep speaking to him much about prosperity and wealth and harvests and the rain of heaven, and you can lead Israel as you please, like a hungry beast following an offered bait which is withdrawn that he may be led and be caused to submit to a higher will. This also supplies a standard of progress. Do we care for the sanctuary because of its God or because of its conventional respectability? To what end besiege we the altar of Heaven, to pray or to profit?
Still preserving the marvellous consistency of the whole economy, we cannot fail to notice how beautifully the sacrifices were adapted to the religious condition of the people. This explains the sacrifices indeed. What was the religious condition of the people? Hardly religious at all. It was an infantile condition; it was a condition in which appeal could only lie with effect along the line of vision. So God will institute a worship accordingly: he will say to Israel, Bring beasts in great Numbers, and kill them upon the altar; take censers, put fire thereon; spare nothing of your herds and flocks and corn and wine; have a continual burnt offering, and add to the continual burnt offering other offerings great in number and in value. Israel must be kept busy; leisure will be destruction. There must be seven Sabbaths in the week, and seven of those seven must be specialised by fast or festival or sacred observance. Give Israel no time to rest. When he has brought one bullock, send him for another; when he has killed a ram, call for a thousand more; this will be instructive to him. We must weary him to a higher aspiration; to begin this aspiration would be to beat the air, or to speak an unknown language, or to propound a series of spiritual impossibilities. Men must be trained according to their capacity and their quality. The whole ceremonial system of Moses constitutes in itself—in its wisdom so rich, its marvellous adaptation to the character and temper of the times,—an unanswerable argument for the inspiration of the Bible. It was the economy for the times. It could not be replaced, even imaginatively, to advantage, by the keenest wit of the brightest reader. It might be a profitable engagement now and then to try to amend the masonry of the Bible. Take out whole blocks of institutions, observances, and ceremonies, and put into the vacancies something better; let it be confessedly better in quality, but taken out of a further time and brought back to the early age. At once there is a sense of incoherence, unfitness, dissonance; the right thing is not in the right place; history is outraged; the genius of progress is misinterpreted. So with the Christian Scriptures. Take out, for example, the sermon upon the mount, and put into its place instructions regarding the building of the tabernacle. Men could not tolerate the alteration. The soul cannot thus go back. We have seen how wonderful a thing it was to write a New Testament: when the resources of language had been exhausted, when the sublimest poetry had been uttered, when the grandest altar had been built, it required a Son of God at once to begin the New Testament: begun by a feebler hand, the ages would have cast out the violence and the insult. The distributions of matter in the Bible are made by a divine hand; the very placing of the materials is itself an argument—not, indeed, to the man who comes upon the Bible with effrontery and self-idolatry, beginning where he pleases, and moving up and down the sacred record with erratic will and taste, but to the man who makes the law his study, night and day, seeing how it looks in star-light, then how it bears the blaze of noonday, how it takes upon itself the fevers of the summer, and how amid the chills of winter it still thrills with forecasts of mercy. Only they ought to pronounce upon the Bible who have read it, and only they have read the Bible who have read it all, until it has swallowed up all manner of books and has become transformed into the very life of the soul.
So far the line has been consistent from its beginning, what wonder, then, if it culminate in one splendid word? That word is introduced here and there. For example, in chapter Deuteronomy 10:12, the word occurs; in chapter Deuteronomy 11:1, it is repeated. What is that culminating word? How long it has been kept back! Now that it is set down we see it and acknowledge it; it comes at the right time, and is put in the right place:—"To love him." Then again in chapter Deuteronomy 11:1 — "Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God." Moses is almost a Christian, even in the historical sense of the term, and it is well that his name should be linked for ever with the name of the Lamb. Jesus uses no higher word than "love." Paul thought he would pronounce it aright by repeating it often,—and repetition is sometimes the only proper pronunciation: the word must be spoken so frequently as to fall into a refrain and attach itself to all the noblest speech of life. "Master, which is the great commandment?" And Jesus answered,—"Thou shalt love." Here we have Moses and the Lamb. It ought to be easy to love God: we are akin to him; damn ourselves as we may, we are still his workmanship, his lost ones. We wrong our own souls in turning away from God: we commit suicide in renouncing worship; we are not surrendering something outside of us, we are putting the knife of destruction into our own soul. We have once more a standard of progress. We are in relation to this word love! Love means passion, fire, sacrifice, self-oblivion, daily, eternal worship. Who then can be saved? The word love does not destroy other elements which enter into the mystery of true worship. Moses says,—"What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways... and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord?" The word love is found in this company. Recite the names that you may the more clearly understand the society of love. "Fear," "walk," "serve," "keep,"—it is in that society that love shines like the queenliest of the stars. Love is not a mere sentiment, a quality that evaporates in sighing or that fades into invisibleness by mystic contemplation; love calls fear, walking, serving, keeping, to its side, and they all together, in happy harmonic co-operation, constitute the divine life and the divine sonship of the soul. We, too, have mystery; we have miracles; we have ceremonies; we have tabernacles and temples;—what is the meaning of them all? They cannot end in themselves; read the riddle; tell us in some short word which may be kept in a child"s memory—the meaning of all the cumbrous machinery—the gorgeous ritual of the olden time, and even the simpler worship of the passing day. What is the meaning of prayer, and faith, and gift, and service, and outward profession? Would we learn the word? We find it in the Old Testament and in the New Moses speaks it, Christ speaks it, Paul speaks it, John speaks it,—they are all trying to say it—"Love." Love keeps nothing back; love is cruel as fire in the testing of qualities; love is genial as Heaven in the blessing of goodness. Though we have all knowledge, all prophecy, and are marvels in gifts of eloquence, and though we give our goods to feed the poor and our body to be burned, and outrun ancient Israel in costly and continuous ceremony, if we have not love—pure, simple, childlike, beautiful love—our music is noise, and our sacrifice is vanity.
Thou wilt not show us thy glory now. Thou hast promised to show us thy goodness, and to make it pass before us: this thou art doing day by day; all things show the mercy of God. As for ourselves, goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our life. We know this: our life speaks to this truth strongly and lovingly; therefore, we fear no evil: we smile upon the threatened darkness: the valley of the shadow of death is part of the way home. We have no real fear, no intense terror of heart; we are subject to passing dreads and alarms and foolish excitements, but all these do not touch the soul seated in the solemnity of an eternal covenant. Thou wilt accomplish all things; thou wilt not fail to bring on the topstone; having spent the ages in building the temple, the pinnacle shall not be wanting. Thou didst see the end from the beginning, and almightiness cannot fail. We stand in this security as within the munition of rocks; the wind cannot overturn our retreat; the tempest wastes its fury upon that stone; we are shut in by the hand of God. Help us to see the great beyond,—not to be too curious about it, but to use it as an allurement, a silent persuasion, a mighty compulsion towards stronger work, nobler purpose, larger prayer; thus the heavens shall help the earth; the sun shall be our light all day, and above it shall there be a brightness which the soul can understand. We bless thee for a sense of sin forgiven. Continue thy daily pardon. We feel as if we must be pardoned every moment, for since we have been pardoned and our eyes have been enlightened, we see more clearly, and we discern more critically: the things which once wore no face of offence now burn before us as if filled with all horribleness and as if carrying all shame. We would be pure as God is pure, perfect with the perfectness of God; but this end who can attain except through long ages, by the way of the Cross, by the ministry of blood, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost? But our hope is in God: we shall yet be perfected; we shall stand before him without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, without a tear of shame in the eyes, without a flutter of misgiving or fear in the uplifted hands. The Lord have us in his holy keeping; the Lord build for us a pavilion in which our souls may daily trust; and when the end comes may we find it but a beginning; when the shadow falls may it be the background of many an unsuspected star; and when we stand before thee may we have on the robe of Christ—be clothed with him, not having on our own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness of Christ, the purity of the Cross.
If this prayer may be answered now we shall not know but that we are already in heaven. Amen.
This is the closing portion of a very long discourse delivered by Moses. The discourse begins in the twenty-second verse of the fifth chapter and extends to the end of the eleventh chapter. Within these points Moses rehearses the Decalogue and its leading principles; beyond the range of principles he has hardly yet gone. The next chapter opens with details, and insists upon special and clear applications of the morals which Moses had heretofore inculcated. The preacher winds up this portion of his discourse with a solemn appeal; he brings the great question to a point. He has not conducted himself merely as a lecturer upon moral philosophy, stating various theories with great learning and skill, and leaving his listeners to come to their own conclusions. There are no such lectures in an inspired book; they are in their right place in strictly human literature—an ample field within which men may indulge their genius and exhibit the results of their investigations. Moses comes with a law. Rightly or wrongly, that is the position which he assumes. He is not an intellectual reasoner merely—an inventor of systems, a critic of extinct ages; he says he has brought two tables written with the finger of God, measurable and intelligible as to letters and applications, but underneath them, and above them, and round about them is the mystery of Eternity. How does this noble preacher conclude his expositions and rehearsals? He does not divide the people into two classes: he sets before them alternative courses:—proceed upon the line of obedience, and you come to blessing; proceed along the line of disobedience, and a curse is the inevitable necessity,—not a threatening, not an exhibition of fretful vengeance, but a spiritual necessity: a curse follows evil-doing, not as an arbitrary punishment, but as the effect, which can never be changed, of a certain, positive, operating cause. This, therefore, takes out the personal element. We are not divided as on the right hand and on the left. Instead of classifying the hearers, Moses classifies the alternatives; and thus grace follows law,—a species of mercy asserts itself in the midst of the severest and most critical of all moral legislation. The dart is not aimed at any particular Prayer of Manasseh, nor is the favour dispensed in any spirit of selection and partiality; but two great courses are indicated, two distinct issues are classified, and it is for us, reasoning upon history and observation, to say whether the prophet of the Lord touched the vital line—whether he trifled with the occasion, or whether he spake that which is today confirmed by experience and observation or human development and progress. What if everything round about us be confirming the testimony of Moses? What if the Decalogue be written every day of the week? What if in the operation of moral influence it can be distinctly proved that the Bible is one, that the word of the Lord abideth for ever, and that, whatever changes may have occurred, obedience still leads to blessing, disobedience still leads to cursing, and it is not within the wit or the strength of man to change that outgoing of law and consequence?
A very precious thing it is that we have only to obey. At first it looks as if we were humbled by this course of service, but further inquest into the spiritual meaning of the matter shows us that in the definition of right and wrong, law and righteousness, God has been most tenderly-pitiful towards us, and law is but the practical and more visible and measurable aspect of love. Again and again we have seen that we are not moral inventors. God has not propounded a writing to us, to find out which is right and which is wrong; nor has he left to us the wild liberty, which would have been so full of disappointment and pain, of discovering for ourselves which way we would take, not knowing the definite issue of either course. There is nothing arbitrary in the revelation of eternal law: by its very nature it is a quantity which lies beyond our vision, and which does not submit itself to the rearrangements of our invention. Things relating to mere convenience, momentary rights, boundaries which are being continually enlarged and contracted as civilisation may require,—with regard to these we are legislators, makers of law, having in our right the gift of reward and the infliction of penalty; but even these things are wrong if they are not built upon rocks we never laid, if they do not express the eternal harmoniousness, the infinite righteousness of God. In so far as they approach the divine thought, they will abide, they will daily vindicate their own justice; and in so far as they do not express the decree of Heaven, all time is against them; not a star in the wide heavens is on their side; they must go down by a pressure as irresistible as it is immeasurable and invisible. Happy is the man who has discovered that he is not meant to be a moral inventor—a maker of morals,—that he has to accept a revealed morality and an offered righteousness: that God has been so kind to him as to arrange the whole way of life, so that the wayfaring man need not lose the path. This down-letting of a moral revelation is an aspect of the grace of God. When we come into fuller grace, clearer apprehension of the divine mind, we call the law an assistant guiding us to school—not so much a schoolmaster, as the English has it, as one who takes us by the hand and guides us to the schoolmaster; but, even then we begin to see that the law, if written on stone, was written by a hand of love; if set forth in letters that seem to burn in the intensity of their purity, yet did those very letters light us into inner meanings, into the very hidden sanctuary of God. When will men learn this? When will they at once and for ever confess it, and so save themselves from endless and profitless trouble? The Christian position is that the whole scheme of righteousness is revealed: whatever is right, true, pure, good, lovely, honest, and of heavenly savour has been given by God, so that the disappointing exercise of invention is superseded or is rendered of non-effect. One who knows the universe, because he made it, and all eternity, because he inhabits it, has condescended to tell us what is good, what is true, what is pure, what is right. If we were inspired by the right spirit, we would instantly stand up in thankfulness and bless the Giver"s name, and ask but one other favour—that we might have eyes to see the innermost meaning of the law, and hearts trained, disciplined, and sanctified to accept and obey it, and express it in noble behaviour.
Is it true, within limits that we know, that obedience leads to blessing and disobedience to cursing? Sometimes we have to interrupt the divine reasoning that we may assist ourselves in its comprehension by the study of analogy upon lower ground. Is it true that there is a seed-time, which, if neglected, will be followed by desolation and death? Disprove that, and you will largely enable yourselves to disprove higher and more spiritual propositions. Is there a Bible of agriculture—a distinct revelation of the mysterious way of astronomic and agricultural and chemical forces? Is there a Moses of science—a man who comes to the ages with two tables of stone, telling us what nature has told him after waiting upon her day and night for many a year? The man abides by facts: he says, I have studied nature, I have been a patient student in her temple, and I have seen that this and that are essential to a harmonic association with her principles and requirements. He must leave the law; if he is wrong, he will soon be disproved; if he is right, then the critics cannot put him down. The appeal must always be to experience, to fact, to known circumstances, and provable assertions. A pity, indeed,—some might say,—that men cannot form their own opinions as to whether they will avail themselves of the day assigned to seed-sowing. Why should not men make a calendar of their own about these things? The calendars are copies: the writing of man is only what man has heard in the solemnity and silence of some Sinai. The appeal, after he has spoken, lies to earth, time, season, and by the issue—not by his pretence or claim—let him stand or fall. But may there not be many varieties of methods? Certainly; but the earth abideth for ever. We must study the effect of the central and eternal quantity within which we have no liberty, and then the changeable and adaptable circumstances and forces within which we may for the moment imagine ourselves to be masters and governors. A marvellous, mysterious combination is our life of necessity and freedom,—an eternal quantity and a continually-changing atmosphere; within that system we live. Is it true that there are laws of health—ten commandments, more or less, about the body? Then there is a Bible of physiology; there is a Moses who speaks with the authority of nature about the human system and its relations to all its environment. Is it true that want of exercise, accompanied by plentifulness of food, leads to the degeneration of muscle? Why were we not left to settle that ourselves? Is there a law upon this? Is it true that children born in the springtime and in the winter are marked by greater vitality than children born at any other period of the year? Why were we not left to say in the family circle itself when children shall be healthy, when vitality shall rise and when it shall fall? Is there a law of sleep and of labour? If Song of Solomon, then, the Bible is a larger book than we supposed. If all these little outside Bibles are true and can challenge facts to prove their truth, it is not difficult to rise to the higher level, and to say, There may be a Bible meant for the soul; there may be a revelation addressed to the reason, and to the higher reason called faith, and to the higher self called the spirit. This higher revelation has not the immediate advantage of the lower Bibles, because they deal with earth, body, space, time, measurable quantities: but the higher Bible deals with soul, spirit, thought, will, eternity; by the very grandeur of its claim it dispossesses itself of that immediateness of proof which lies within the handling of the lower revelations and testimonies. But this must not be considered a disadvantage: this belongs to the glory and the necessity of the case. He who operates within a radius of a few inches can be, apparently, quicker in his movements, more precise and determined in his decisions, than the man who claims the globe as the theatre of his actions. So the Bible, having the disadvantage of dealing with spiritual quantities, must be judged, so far as we can approach it, by the spirit of the lower laws, or the laws applying to the lower economy. Is there any curse upon indolence? Does indolence rise for a moment from its pillow to smile satirically at industry, saying, I shall be to-night as rich as you are: mean to slumber and sleep and doze in many a happy dream, and when you come back at eventide from the field where you have been wearying yourself my hands will be as full as yours; go your unprofitable and vexatious way? When did indolence say so? Or, saying Song of Solomon, when did indolence prove the truthfulness and reality of its doctrine? When was not indolence stabbed by its own satire, and made to tremble under the infliction of its own scorn? Then there is a Bible relating to industry, service, stewardship, faithfulness,—who does not uphold that Bible? Is there an employer of labour in the world who would not say, Such a Bible proves its own inspiration? And is there an honest labourer in the world who would hesitate to accept that Bible, being compelled to its acceptance by the very constraint of necessity? So then, we cannot do away with this law of blessing and cursing: we cannot set up a rival system of nature; we are bound to accept the very earth; we are driven—account for it as we may—to accept the light of the sun; we are so pressed and humbled that we must wait for the former and the latter rain. Yet what liberty man has! What pranks he plays in chemistry! How he amuses himself in the invention of lights! How, having once invented a candle, he cannot rest until he has invented a larger light, and when he has invented his largest light he takes care to put it out before the sun rises, or the sun will put it out for him! God will not allow two creators: he himself reigns. He is still creating, and man is left but to invent, and arrange, and adapt, and borrow: find him where you will you find man a debtor; and the universe asks its brightest genius, "How much owest thou unto my Lord?"
The argument is this: seeing that in the field, in the body, in the social economy, there is a law of blessing and a law of cursing, who shall say that this same reasoning does not culminate in a great revelation of heaven, hell; "the right-hand," "the left-hand;" eternal life, everlasting penalty? If the analogies had been dead against that construction, we might by so much have stood in doubt and excused ourselves from completeness of service; but every analogy becomes a preacher: all nature takes up her parable and speaks the revelations of her God: all life beats with a pulse below a pulse, the physical throb being but an indication of a growing immortality. We stand in a solemn sanctuary. We cannot get rid of law. The spiritual is a present blessing or a present curse. We cannot be happy with a bad conscience: it hardens the pillow when we need sleep most, it upsets all our arrangements, or makes our hand so tremble that we cannot clutch our own property; and we cannot be unhappy with a good conscience: without bread we are still in fulness, without employment we are still inspired by hope, without much earthly charity or largeness of construction of our motive and force we still retire within the sanctuary of an approved judgment and conscience. Blessing is not a question of posthumous realisation, nor is cursing. Heaven is here, and hell in germ, in outline, in hint, in quick, burning suggestion. Even now sometimes men know not whether they are in the body or out of the body by reason of religious entrancement and ecstasy; and there are men who, if they dare put their feeling into words, would say, "The pains of hell gat hold upon me." "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked;" "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished;" "Be sure your sin will find you out." Who can fight God and win the battle?
The last words of Moses in this paragraph show us that new situations do not necessitate new morals. This is proved by Deuteronomy 11:31-32 : "For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein. And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day." Morals do not change. Methods change, systems vary, theology readjusts its statements and retranslates itself into the growing language of a growing civilisation,—all that is true; but the abiding quantity is the law, the revelation of God in Christ, the living Son of the eternal God—Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. We have no right that changes its claims according to the side of the river which it is upon: right is right on this side Jordan and on that side Jordan: there is no cis-Jordan righteousness and trans-Jordan morality. Right is right the universe through, because God is one; evil is evil everywhere, because divine holiness is unchangeable. Look not to time, place, change of circumstance or situation, for the acceptance of a vicious morality: the universe is against it; eternity condemns it. Right is possible here, and only in one way: the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin; there is a fountain opened in the house of David for sin and uncleanness. Availing ourselves of that one way we lose nothing; taking the very lowest view of the whole mystery, we gain much because of an expansion of our own view of human nature and human possibility, and, at the last, when the great leap must be taken, if we leap into nothingness, we have had a wonderful joy all the way we have taken—wonderful communion, marvellous blessing in good-doing, intellectual and spiritual enlargement, in growing power cf prayer; but, if the leap be into life, judgment, an eternal state of consciousness and apprehension, who wins: the fool who has no God, or the Christian who has been trusting in the living God and his Saviour Jesus Christ? To that inquiry who will reply In words? To attempt an answer in syllables would be to lower the occasion. That is an inquiry which brings its own ineffable reply.
Almighty God, thy Son Jesus Christ is our Saviour. He is mighty to save. The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. We were lost: we were as sheep going astray, turning every one to his own way; but we have returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. This is the Lord"s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. We have been brought by a way we knew not and by paths we could not understand. This is the miracle of grace; this is the surprise of Heaven. Once we were blind: now we see; once we had no future: now life and immortality are brought to light. We long for the future; we live in heaven; we are the sons of God. We bless thee for a word of love and hope and joy: it fills the heart; it makes the spirit glad; it is the inspiration of heavenly grace. Meet with us when we gather together around thy Book, and help us to understand its best meaning, to feel its holy influence, and to respond to its gracious appeals. Thou knowest who are carrying heavy burdens, whose eyes are full of tears, whose hands are feeble and can no longer do life"s pressing work; thou knowest also the prodigal children, thankless offspring, difficult to manage in business, in the home, and on the highway; our whole life is spread out before thee in clearest vision, and there is an answer in heaven to all the necessity of earth. Lord, answer thy servants; be gracious unto them who are clothed with the white linen of the saints. Thou wilt not see them put to shame; thou wilt try them with many a chastening sorrow, but in the deliverance of thy people thou wilt magnify thy grace. Wash us in the sacrificial blood; cleanse us from the condemnation of sin; make us pure with thine own purity; and in thine own due time gather us to the hills of heaven. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 11". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany