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The Lord's Artillery
WE have seen how Gibeon made peace with Joshua. Adoni-zedec, king of Jerusalem, was exceedingly displeased with the men of Gibeon for making peace with the enemy. He sent, therefore, unto the mountain kings of the Amorites, inviting them to smite Gibeon, saying, "It hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel." So the five kings of the Amorites went up; and the Lord said unto Joshua, "Fear them not.... there shall not a man of them stand before thee." "So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour." And Joshua smote the enemy "with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah;" and when Joshua had done all that lay in his power, the Lord took up the case, and he hailed out of heaven upon the enemy, and "they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword." The Lord never loses a battle. The picture of that fight is most vivid. It gleams with many colours, and as it stands in the gallery of ancient history, it seems to say, This is how it always is; study me, and see the providence of the Lord. We accept the invitation.
The divine cause has enemies. The miracle is upon our side. Why complain or utter wonders equal to complaints about miracles divine? The miracle is on the human side, and is expressed in the incredible fact that the divine cause has human enemies. Reason seems to be offended by the statement. A voice within us protests against the possibility of an anomaly so glaring and so violent. We should listen to the protest if we could shut our eyes to the facts. Show us something divine, and we will worship it. Men would say in certain moods, Show us the truly beautiful, and we will fall down before it in an attitude of adoration. Thus we exclaim. The common doctrine would seem to be: we have only to see the good, and we will accept it; to behold the beautiful, and we will worship it; to know the right, and we will do it. It would be pleasant to believe this. We want to believe it for our own creed's sake. But facts are dead against us. We are witnesses against ourselves. We see the right, and yet the wrong pursue. We say openly, with frankness that will be turned against us some day, This is the right road. But we are going in an opposite direction, that is the miracle! When you have settled and determined that anomaly, then you may begin to challenge the possibility of miracles upon the upper or divine side. "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me." What do you make of facts? We sentimentalise, or dream, or speculate, what is your answer to the awful mystery that a man, not only can say, but does say, This is right, but I decline to do it? If this were matter of speculation, you would put the speculation from your mind as unworthy of the dignity of human reason. If this were a charge laid against a distant nation, we should make some trifling remark upon the incident, describing it as romantic, if not impossible; but it is the great line of our own life, the broad line which marks our whole experience, action, and attitude; and we are continually face to face with the solemn charge, that we know the Lord's way and the Lord's cause, and we set ourselves in distinct disobedience to his law and claim.
But the enemies of the divine cause have both earth and heaven against them: the sword of Israel, and the hail of God. The living God has two great forces; if you escape one, you fall under the power of the other. Men cannot do with the earth as they please. They think they can, but that is a deadly mistake. What can they do with the earth? Consider the case, and learn how little is human power in relation to those very things which seem to come easily within its sway. What can men do with the earth, which is under their feet, as if in sign of humiliation and unworthiness? Can they stop it? Can they reverse its motion? Can they illuminate it? What can these masters do with their nominal slave? They can smite it with iron, and make it grow what they please. No, they cannot! The dull earth, hoed into grooves, will not obey the iron pick, will not turn to the pluck of the bit and bridle given by violent hands. What, then, can we do with the earth? We are obliged to study it, to find out all its moods and whims and tempers. We are compelled to humour the old earth. We have to treat it very delicately and very kindly. At first we think we have only to smite it with iron, and it will be only too glad to respond in harvests: but the earth is a mystery; the earth will not do what we want it to do. It openly says, I will not grow this crop; this year you must change my food; I am tired of this monotony, and I will not move again. We form associations to consider the earth, to report upon it, to take measurements and temperatures, and to arrange means to ends; and there the old earth swings on in the darkness, now night, now day, and must be humoured like a living thing. How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. The stones of the field seem to have a mind, and the winds and the stars to be under a purpose, and to be expressing a design. Then the upper earth if I may so call the atmosphere for what is it but an upper and enlarged earth? We may be able to do some little thing with spade and mattock, with plough and harrow, but what can we do up in the clouds? There is a minister of wrath called the weather. We have never been able to bribe him, propitiate him, bring him within the circle of our influence. The weather has come down upon our navies, and broken them into wet chips. The weather has stopped our great steam-horses, and said, No further on this road just now! It an earthquake had done it, there would have been some harmony between the process and the result; but little flakes of snow have done it white little wings, things that look like beautiful insects, down they have come, and down, until that which in detail weighed nothing accumulated itself into millions of tons, and great steam-horses, challenging and thundering and roaring, have had to stand still before the white opponent, unable to move one inch. Why, our power is quite a nominal thing after all. We thought we were so great, and yet the earth beats us, or if we win a little success in the soil and report it, we can do nothing in the clouds; we have no ladder a hundred feet long, or two hundred feet long, or five hundred feet long, and if we had, there is nothing to set it against. After all, our pride is shaken down, our vanity is cut in two; and men who have discovered a new variety of crop for the soil have to say parenthetically, almost religiously, "weather permitting"! When Christian men charge reformers and empirics with inability to touch the heart's deadly sore, they can illustrate their position and vindicate their fear by the littleness of the limit which binds in the power of all men even in matters terrestrial and confessedly material. Mend the weather before you mend human manners. Stop the rain before you attempt by merely human means to stop the torrent of human iniquity. When you have won triumphs in your own world, we will accept them as proofs that you may be able to do some mightier thing on broader lines.
All things fight for God. The hailstones are his friends and allies; the stars in their courses beat and throb according to his purpose and express his intent. The bad cause has no friends; it comes to an ignominious end; it is overwhelmed by hailstones. It is so humbling! If men could have shown on the forehead a great scar made by a gleaming sword swung by the arms of a Hercules a very giant in stature and strength we should have said, Well, you had a foeman worthy of your steel; it is equal to a victory to have been felled by that man. You come in under stress of weather. Hailstones! you beaten back by hailstones? Yes! Why then there is no glory in it, not a whit. Come back because of the weather? Yes. Well, that is very crushing. Exceedingly so. But you are a man; why didn't you "stand up like a man"? I did, but the hailstones knocked me down! Why is it so? All the world over. You cannot lock the hail up. You cannot find a shutter that will certainly keep the lightning on the outside: God takes the hasp off after we have shut up the front-door. Consider the ignominy of the end! To be slain with a sword is to meet a soldier's fate; to be killed with hailstones is to be treated as an inferior creature is to feel the contempt of an invisible and infinite enemy.
These are the strongholds and grounds of the Christian attack. We are not speaking to men, you see, who can walk as if with the wings of the wind, and make the clouds the dust of their feet, and bring in the spring when they please, and detain the summer as long as they have a mind to detain that shining guest; we are speaking to men, however great or little, to men who have to make careful parentheses and reservations in their boldest talk; to men whose triumphant essays are wetted through and drenched by God's snow, so that they cannot read their own writing. "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." There is only one safe motion, only one astronomic rhythm, and if you get out of beat and harmony with that, you are at war with God. A short fight is his who encounters gravitation. Foist moment he may leap, but he will soon lie down; for a little while he may seem as if master of the situation, but the great serene law moves on and flattens whatever opposes its tranquil operation. "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace."
The bad cause perishes in contempt. The five kings ran away and hid themselves in a cave, and Joshua said, Bring them out! and to the men of Israel, Put your feet upon their necks; and the men of Israel put their feet upon the necks of the kings; and he said, Now hang them upon trees; and the men of Israel hanged the five kings upon five trees, and at the evening hour cut them down and threw them into the very cave in which they had hidden themselves, and laid great stones against the mouth of the cave, and there they are until this day. The great life-lesson running out of all this ancient history is: it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." No hailstone ever ranked itself on the bad side. No rain ever offered itself to help the bad man. Though it may appear to have done so incidentally, it never did so finally; and the stones will be faithful unto the last. There shall come a day when men shall say to the rocks and to the mountains, "Fall on us," and rock and mountain will stand without a sign. "Hide us from the wrath of the Lamb!" and the rock and the mountain will stand upon their foundations without a quiver or a spasm. "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." This is science: we are invited into the astronomic movement. It is the call of gravitation, not of speculative theology. It is the music of the spheres, not some hymn of despicable sentiment. What say you? To be with Christ, with God, is to be in the laws of gravitation. Have you any objection to that? It is to be marching step for step. Have you any complaint to make against that appeal? Why try to go the other way when all the gates are locked and the keys are not to be found? Why not have on our side God, and all that God implies and involves the whole mystery of power and grace, righteousness and wisdom? Then we shall know what it is to triumph. We shall hear a voice behind us and within us say, "It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again." Who shall lay anything to the charge of those who are in rhythm with God? The appeal seems to me so based on all that is true in science, in nature, in the reality and necessity of things, that but for the miracle which we indicated at the outset, it would seem impossible but that every man should rise and say, I will be on the Lord's side, I will live by the divine movement, I will find peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. That is what Jesus Christ came to do. He found we were opposing the law of spiritual gravitation; trying to create a universe of our own, and only making a hell; trying to silence music by discord, and being lost in the tumult which we made. He is our peace. In him we are safe evermore. When the hail pours down, it will be upon the enemy, not upon the friend; and when the lightning gleams and blazes and burns, it shall not come nigh the heart that rests in the Cross in the infinite mystery of the infinite atonement. Bad man, you can go on a while if you like, but not for long: the hail is against you. You can make yourself so trusted as to be allowed to go and change the securities and rob the strong-box, but not for long: nature has her eye upon you, the constables of the universe are on your track. You can succeed for a while, you can do wonders for a while, but only for a while; you will be hanged, cut down, ruthlessly and contemptuously flung into a cave, and be forgotten. Do not imagine that your course is quite run yet: you may have twenty-four hours more; but the hand from which there is no release is already groping for you. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. The ungodly are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. The triumphing of the wicked is short. Only righteousness is eternal; only honesty goes through the weather without getting wet; only the truth can put out to sea in any weather, plunging into the troughs, mounting up on the billows, swinging on the crest, down again, up again, but all the time steering straight for the green summer shore. Oh, go not to sea in some paper boat of your own making! The vessel of God's righteousness and love is open to us all. Let us enter. It cannot be wrecked.
Almighty God, we are alive this day to praise thee. Thou canst call upon living men to bear witness to thy rule and thy care. Thou art not the God of the dead, but the God of the living; thou dost not refer to the ancient time beyond our memory, thou dost appeal unto ourselves, thou dost ask us to read the record of our own life and to consider all the way along which thou hast conducted us. This we will gladly do. Herein is our joy, secret and public. We love to commune with our own hearts, and to take note of all the care thou hast shown unto us day by day from the first; and we love in the open sanctuary to make public mention of thy goodness, and to sing a loud song unto God, and to make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation. We have seen thy goodness, handled it, felt it, known it in the core of the heart; therefore we will not be silent, but will magnify thy name day by day, at the entering in of the city, in the place of public concourse, quietly at home, all but silently in the chamber of sickness: but we will not forget thy benefits, nor cease to remember the mercies of God. Thou hast led us by a way that we have not known. We have come upon strange names in the outworking of our history; unfamiliar places we have trodden; unfriendly tribes have accosted us and encountered us with stubborn resistance; we have looked round for water where there were no wells, and have gone out to pluck fruit where there were no trees; and, behold, thou hast not sent us back unrefreshed or empty-handed: thou hast created fountains in the wilderness, and trees thou hast planted on the rocks. Thou art a God of miracles, working wonders in light and in darkness. Thou dost send unto us messages in all the blowing winds, yea, in the cold and mighty tempest, and in the gentle summer breeze; and all the year long thou dost never forget us: we are graven upon the palms of thy hands. We will magnify thy name, and praise it. New mercies shall create new songs; new visions of truth shall touch the soul into nobler praise. Thus will we spend the few days of our life, a handful at the most, praying that the last may be brighter than the first, yea, that the last on earth may be the first in heaven. We pray that our own life may continue to be the object of thy care. We can only live in God. We can only live in God as we bear the fruit which is consistent with thy purpose in our creation. Every branch that beareth not fruit is cut down, and cast away, and burned in the fire. We would bear fruit unto thy glory: we would have living minds, clean hearts, responsive spirits, industrious hands, souls that live in prayer; the Lord grant unto us our heart's desire! For thy Book we daily bless thee: it is brighter than the morning; it is fuller of truth than the night is full of stars. Help us to read it patiently, sympathetically, devoutly; whilst we read, may the Writer himself be present, the inspiring Holy Spirit, that so the inspired reader may peruse the inspired writing, and in thy light see light, and behold and wonder at the ever-expanding revelation of God. Be with us wherever we are in the twelve hours of the day and the twelve hours of the night. Make our bread pleasant to our eating; grant a blessing upon the water we drink from the streams which descend from heaven; give us the apt mind in business, the clear head, the eye that sees afar, the sensitiveness which men knowing not God cannot explain; be with us in all family darkness, trouble, bereavement: when sickness comes, or loss, or bare poverty, may we find room for them, because they may be angels in disguise. Direct us in all our path; give us the right word when a sudden answer is demanded; save us from mental perplexity when besieged by an unrighteous ability; the Lord give us steadfastness and love of truth in the soul, and the incorruptible sincerity which burns all evil and finds its way to God through storm and cloud, through rock and desert and difficulty. Send a plentiful rain upon thine inheritance; bless thy people with peace; crown their lives with forgiveness. Above all, make us like thy Son Jesus Christ, brightness of thy glory, express image of thy person; may we in our degree be beautiful as he: pure and noble and self-surrendering; may we know somewhat of the mystery of his Cross, the pathos of his suffering, the atonement which he wrought out in the mystery and passion of love. For his sake, hear us; for his sake, bless us; for his sake, withhold not any good thing from us. Amen.
Five Modern Kings
WE are now travelling in the midst of wars and rumours of wars in our progress through these sacred pages. The reading is very exciting and distressing. Every page is a battlefield, and every sentence is like a stain of blood. Our distress can only be mitigated by taking in great breadths of time and viewing the course of Providence, not in detail, but in entirety, as a stupendous and well-composed unity. This is the law of just judgment in all life, so we are not creating a law for special application to exceptional circumstances. We do not fully know why this waste of human life was made. But why say "was" made, as if referring to an exhausted history? We need not speak in the past tense, but in the present, for this same waste of life is made, in some form or other, every day, and seems to be part of the very law of progress. We cannot understand it. We are not called upon to defend it. We must seriously stop and consider it. But there is the law: peace comes through battle, and life through death. Every garden is only a planted cemetery. Wherever you set your foot, you set it upon death. Who can understand the philosophy of destruction, the apparent wastefulness of God? It is a mistake to suppose that destruction is unnecessary. Every day slays its countless thousands. War is not a term definable by one word, nor is it confined to one set of circumstances; it is at the very heart of all imperfect and yet developing things. Life lives upon life. Blood is renewed by blood. A great mystery this and a tragedy that expresses infinite pain. But such is the devouring rapacity of life. It cannot live upon dead things. Life must live upon life, cannibalism, not regulated, directed, and brought under some law of sanctification, a great fact, a solemn and terrible thing! What a hunger it is that gnaws our being; it would soon develop itself into cruelty if civilisation did not limit it, and supply it with what it wants. No fire could deter it; no force could restrain it; it must be appeased from heaven. Which is to be uppermost? is the question of all life. What is to be uppermost? is the question of Heaven, and God has declared for the righteous. So righteousness will win, and purity will sit upon the throne that is everlasting. We know all this, in part, without the Bible. There are many bibles upon this subject Men have written revelations who never suspected what they were doing. They described their exercises by quite other and inferior terms, namely: they were observing, collating, laying down a basis of induction; but do what they may, they all end in law, and the law would seem to be: destruction necessary to life, the out-crowding of some by others, "the survival of the fittest." This is not the day of judgment upon which we can settle all these things, giving fully-matured opinions upon them and disposing of them decisively and finally. Thank God, we are permitted to speak as we think, that is to say, God permits speech to relieve thinking; so men publish immature books, speakers deliver immature speeches; but their books and speeches are not to be regarded as final and unchangeable. Revelation is a growing quantity. Biblical interpretation is a progressive science. The observation of human life expands and clears and enlarges. Who, then, shall bind any man to his own punctuation, or search the foregone pages to charge him with inconsistency? No man thinks two days alike. To-morrow is not responsible for this day, forasmuch as it will bring its own evil and its own good, its own light and its own darkness. It is needful to remember these things in reading the ancient books of Scripture, for they are full of terror and battle and cruelty and destruction and oppression and wrong, in many a detail, showing how easily the best men were tempted, how soon the noblest men fell into miserable humiliations, and how even women and children and innocent persons were borne down by a tremendous rush, as if the impulse were from heaven.
What use, then, can we make of these ancient instances? We can make great and profitable use of them if we be so minded. Before attempting to make some use of this incident, let us be thankful that the mystery of the sun standing still, and the moon being stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies, has been cleared up. What battles have been fought about these words! How astronomy has been subpoenaed as a witness, and all nature been forced into court! It was quite needless as is much of the clamour and debate raging round strange things in the Bible. The writer himself asks, "Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day." It was written in a poetical book as a grand instance of sublime imagining. It was as if it had been so. It appeared as if this battle must be fought out before eventide, and as if, strangely, men had so fought and so won that the great issue was completed before the setting of the sun. The instance is specially referred to even upon this page as a quotation from a poetical book; so there need not be any solemn summoning of astronomic science to contradict what has never been asserted.
Now we come to the slaying of the kings the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. They were immured in a cave; they were kept for further uses: they were hanged upon a tree; they were burnt and condemned. Are there not five kings yea, fifty, yea, countless hundreds with whom we can do this very same thing kill them, hang them, bury them? We have come to spiritual battlefields. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal; we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and spiritual powers invisible, but tremendous in strength, nor less tremendous in subtlety. We are not straining the instance by pausing to consider the meanings of the names of the places connected with the names of the king, such as the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon. The names of the places may help us to consider the nature of their respective kings.
"The king of Jerusalem." That such a king should have been slain works violently in our memory and whole thought, for "Jerusalem" means peace the city of peace, the restful city, the sabbatic metropolis, the home of rest. But is there not a false peace? If we could not bring some good words into our use and qualify them by bad names, the case of the wicked man would be simply intolerable: the little truth he does tell, makes way for the much falsehood he wishes to propagate. Is there, then, not a false peace? Do we not hear men crying, Peace, peace, where there is no peace? Is it not possible to daub the wall with untempered mortar? Do we not create a wilderness, and call it peace? By banishing all anxieties, by stifling the voices within us that call to righteousness and truth and purity, by occupying the mind with other things, do we not suppose that we have entered into peace enough and realised all the rest we need? Have we not shut out the light, and said, There is none? Have we not given an opiate to conscience, and then said our life is going forward without rebuke? Have we not declined to discuss certain things, and therefore imagined that the things are not open to discussion? We have wronged our own souls in this matter. It is pitiful, yea, heart-rending, to mark how prone we are to close our eyes and consider that, because we have excluded the sense of danger, we have destroyed its presence. The king of false peace must be slain. He has ruled over some of us too long. He has lived upon us, plundered us with both hands, and all the while flattered us, until we have lost all power to criticise his baleful sovereignty. When men are not real with themselves, the case is hopeless. And who is real with himself? Who can take out his very heart, as it were, and analyse it, sift its motives, cross-examine its purposes, and test its half-spoken words? On all subjects of this kind we can but ask the piercing question; it lies with every man to return the honest answer.
"Hebron" means conjunction, joining, alliance. Is not the king of false fellowship to be killed? What concord hath Christ with Belial? Why these ill-assorted marriages in life, not marriages of a merely human and social kind, but all kinds of unions, fellowships, alliances, partnerships, that are founded upon rottenness, and are meant to mislead and deceive? What fellowship hath light with darkness? Yet we are beguiled into such associations, and we enter into them so gradually and in some cases so unsuspectingly that we hardly realise our relation to the false and the abominable until it is completed and sealed. God has always been against unholy alliances. Many a man he has, so to say, arrested with the words, Why this conjunction? What right have you to be here, pledging your character to sustain a known dishonesty? Why do you throw your respectability over this rottenness? But who can be true to himself and to God in this matter? Because we unite at certain parts or points of character, therefore we imagine that we do not include the whole line, and we decline responsibility in proportion to the number of points which our closure does not include. This is trifling with life; this is making a fool of conscience; this is giving to the moral power within us a dread narcotic: and we know it, and to pray after it is to crown our profanity with a lie. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate," saith the Lord. It is very difficult to be associated with some men merely for a temporary purpose, and then to leave them as if the association had never existed. Oftentimes that cannot be done. A certain contagion has operated, and although the formal association may be dissolved, the results of it may abide and express themselves in many insidious, but emphatic ways. Here, again, detail is out of the question. It is only possible to put the inquiry sharply, unflinchingly, and to leave every man to find out where he is, and why he is there. You may pay too much for high fellowships. A man may pay his soul as the price of being allowed to go into a saloon; he may pay his manhood, he may pay his conscience. To spend a giddy half-hour in the gas-lighted saloon, he may be compelled to leave himself outside, that he may emptily and self-renouncingly play the fool in what he calls Society. That rule applies to all life, to all business, to all social fellowships, to all temporary associations. Have nothing to do with bad men, even though the purpose for which they seek your association is itself good. Do not believe any Scripture which the devil quotes to you. It ceases to be Scripture in his vile lips. He spoils all beauty, all loveliness, all honour. Take the same Scripture from the fountain, and carry it out; but do not say, He has quoted Scripture, and my relation to him is only that which ought to subsist between myself and a quoter of Scripture. We must have cleanness of conjunction, purity and reality of alliance, meeting on sympathetic ground. Even the Church of Christ, as constituted in some places, may be wrong in this particular.
And the king of Jarmuth. The word means high, that which is lifted up. And is not the king of false ambition to be slain and then hanged to have contempt added to murder? Contempt is never so well expended as upon false ambition. This false ambition is killing many people. They do not see how foolish it is to be living under king Jarmuth. Why live a strained life always trying to reach something that is just half an inch beyond your stretching power? If you were trying to seize the stars, men would simply smile upon you as imbeciles. It is the odd half-inch that deceives you, makes you think that, because it is only half an inch, surely you may reach it and use it. That is a false law of life. It means ruin. Whilst you are so stretching yourselves beyond your due proportion, men are robbing every pocket you have, and you do not know it; cutting the ground from under your feet, and you are not aware of it; and you yourselves are losing power to do the simple, real, needy business of life with both hands and undivided strength. The temptation to be just a little more than we are is the temptation we read of in the garden of Eden: Eat, says the serpent, of that tree, "and ye shall be as gods," ye shall go into another kind of society, into a saloon higher up, larger, and better lighted; put forth your hands, eat freely, and become "as gods." See if the serpent is not still deceiving society by this very suggestion. Who can live simply and lovingly within the lines of his own conscious strength, and do the work which God has obviously designed him to do? It is when the wish to do something else and something better comes in, that many a man is thrown down and loses what strength he has, much or little, as the case may be.
Then the king of Lachish. The word means hard to be captured, almost out of reach, or so defended that it will be almost impossible to get at the king. Is not the king of fancied security to be slain and hanged? We say it is impossible to penetrate to our hiding-place and dislodge us from our ramparts, not knowing that our ramparts, which are supposed to be made of granite, are constituted but of ice, and the rising sun shall not smite them, but dissolve them, and they shall stream away from us and leave us exposed to every dart and every stroke of the assailant. What is our security? Not money, I hope: for riches take to themselves wings and fly away. Not physical strength, I hope: for even Samson has had his energy drawn out of him, and has been left a giant in carcase, but a cripple in power. Not ancestry, I hope: for who would live upon the dead and wear the respectabilities of an exhausted generation? There is only one security, and that is harmony with God, peace with Heaven, identification with righteousness, the absorption of the little imperfect will with the infinite will of God. You have seen the wicked in great power, spreading himself like a green bay-tree: yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not, yea, you sought him, and he could not be found. The mystery was that there was no violence; there was no record of the decadence in the newspaper of the. day. It was a mystery. The man changed: his mental power deserted him: he put out his hands to take something when there was nothing to be seized; he spoke, as it were, upside down, in confusion that would have amused you if it had not too much distressed your sensibilities. He lost, he reeled, he groped at noonday, he went back to find his rampart, and, behold, it was gone! This we have seen in life in countless cases; but if we have only seen it, the sight will do us little good: such visions should be laid to heart.
King of Eglon. The word "Eglon" means pertaining to a calf, and may be taken as representing the whole system of false worship. A great mocking voice is heard in one of the minor prophets, saying, "Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off." It is the way of false gods: they betray their worshippers; they withdraw themselves when danger crowds the scene with innumerable hostilities; they will do in the sunshine that is to say, they will do when there is nothing to be done; but they have no biding pith, no staying power, no quality divine. Such is the difference between men. Under some circumstances the men are, as it were, equal equal in pleasantness, in cheerfulness, and willingness to assist; but some of them can bear no strain: so long as the whole business can be done by assurances that are without security, they are willing that the whole business should be completed. Men are known by their staying power. Many a man walks the first mile as if he were treading upon air. It is a kind of exercise in levitation, rather than in ponderous and literal walking. But there are ten miles to be walked. The second mile sees a difference; the third mile excites pity in the beholder: the man was never made for that task. So it is with false worship, with imperfect worship, with fancy worship. There are men who worship reason; but reason never worships them or trusts them: it does but coldly smile upon them and wonder at their philosophic insanity. And there are those who worship gold and fame and honour and ease; and these base deities cast them off at eventide. Be right in worship, if you would be right in character. Be right in religious conviction, if you would be right along the whole line of life and equally strong at every point.
Joshua, having slain these kings, goes upon his conquering way. Joshua said, in effect, There are not only five kings to be killed, but more and more, a line of kings, far as the eye can see. So, soldier-like, captain of God, he passed on from Makkedah to Libnah, from Libnah to Lachish, from Lachish to Eglon, from Eglon to Hebron; and there we lose sight of him for a moment. His sword is up, his eyes aflame, and he is the captain of the Lord towards all "devoted" things. And on, too, we must go on from evil to evil, until the last bad king is slain: on from habit to habit till the whole character is purified: on until the whole life is cleansed; and this sweet old earth, so debased, so ill-used, shall become, in every land, in every clime, beautiful as a palace built for God.
Almighty God, we pray with our hearts because thou hast taught us to pray, and we know that in heart-prayer the answer is found in the very petition itself. We are cleansed by this exercise; our mouth is purified and our lips are made clean. How can we speak the name of God, and then speak any other name that is not related to it by pureness or by love? How can we lift up our eyes unto heaven to behold the revelation of light, and then turn them downwards to look upon anything which that light has not created and approved? So thou dost make us better by our praying; we feel the stronger after we have spoken to God. Thou dost draw nigh unto those that address thee; thou dost put out thine hand towards them, and in thine hand is the sceptre of gold. We come by the way of the Cross. We have tried other ways, and they end in cloud and nothingness: but the way of the Cross is a way straight up to heaven; we meet angels upon the road and the spirits of the just made perfect, a sweet and innumerable companionship of souls: all the dear friends we have lost, and the brave comrades, and the crowned ones of every name and quality whom we have known and with whom we have consorted; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. So we form one host: part of it in heaven, part of it on earth; still, we are one family in Christ, and we shall all be brought together into the larger house, and stand night and day in thy presence, whose look is heaven, whose breath is peace. For religious hopes we bless thee: they sing in the soul like angels from heaven; they make the night as the morning, and the morning they make as sevenfold noontide in the summer-time. We thank thee for them; they drive away dejection and fear and solitariness and all evil. We pray thee to multiply these hopes; increase not only their number, but their radiance, and in their light we shall work industriously and hopefully, and every hour shall create its own heaven. The days are few with many now before thee, because the pilgrims are hastening quickly to the end. The end may be tomorrow; the end may be to-night; the end cannot be far off, by reason of natural weakness and the increase of days. Some are young, and full of hope and high life and hot blood, brave and chivalrous when good, but desperate and evil-minded when under the inspiration of the devil; the Lord send a message to such a great gospel of love that shall seize the attention, attract the confidence, and save the soul. Help the young man in his struggle; it goes hardly with him sometimes. Now and again he is quite down, and but for thy touch he would remain there a dead man. Save him in the time of peril! Kill the tempter that sits beside his ear to speak as he may be able to receive the bad communication. Some are engaged in good service: the Lord help them; their heaven is in Christian toil; their delight expresses itself in sacrificial labour. Give them courage and good cheer, and may they be able again to draw together their whole strength, in the name of Christ and for the sake of his Cross, and to go out and do valiantly for the Son of God. The Lord hear us when we pray, and be patient with us in our best endeavours. Pity our littlenesses and vanities and mean conceits. Pity us wherein we carry diseases, distresses of mind or body, brought upon us by no blame of our own; when the evil rises within us, consider our estate, we beseech thee, and remember whence we sprang and through what course we have come in all the ages gone. Take us into thine arms; give us rest awhile from storm and strife; quiet us with thy peace, thou tranquil one; and all this and more immeasurably do thou accomplish for us, because we pray in the name which must prevail. Amen.
"Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"... the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel." Jos 10:42
Israel was an undivided name betokening a complete whole. The Israelite, as an individual, had no existence from Israel, the whole number. If one man wandered away from Israel, the whole body felt itself in a state of incompleteness, and was inspired by a spirit of solicitude and yearning after the absent one. There is a nationality as well as a personality. We miss a good deal by supposing that life is wholly a question of individualities. In a very important sense it is so, but in another equally important sense it is not so. England has a character as well as every Englishman. We speak of the health of a country and say it is good, at the very moment when thousands of persons are lying without ability to walk or work: we speak of the wealth of a country, and call it exceedingly abundant, at the very moment that workhouses are crowded with inmates; we speak of the intelligence of a country, and may describe some countries as the most intelligent in the whole world, notwithstanding the fact that there are within them uncounted numbers of illiterate persons. Thus there is another life beside the merely personal. God is here represented as fighting for nations. God never fights for any nation simply because it is a nation, but because as a nation it is on the right side of the controversy. God has no partiality for any land, except in the degree in which that land is marked by righteousness of purpose and action. Patriotism is folly unless it be based upon moral considerations as well as upon kindred and sentiment. Throughout the whole Bible the Lord has always shown himself as ready to give up one nation as another when moral fidelity was impaired or perverted. Men cannot be permitted to unite themselves with Israel on the ground that God always fights for that particular denomination. This would be selfishness, not piety. God searches the heart, and judges absolutely by the motive. No nation then must pride itself upon being a particular favourite of Heaven: God hath made of one blood all nations of men: God is the Father of the whole world: God is only on the side of the righteous man, be that man black or white, great in wealth or mean in poverty.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 10". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30