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The New Symbol
"And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over" ( Jos 3:1 ).
IN this first verse we have a vivid and beautiful illustration of the method of Providence. The people were called upon to undertake a great and historical task. It is comforting to note how gently and graciously they are led to their work. There is no sign of precipitateness; there is no urgency indicative of impatience. A great and historical city is about to be thrown down to the very foundations, and a new page of human history is about to be turned over; yet the Lord leads up the people to a lodging-place. "God's mill grinds slowly." We are impatient because we are little and ignorant. We have not the completeness of character which means calmness of disposition. We must hasten, we must be noisy; we do not understand how it is that the planets burn without fury or rush or sign of tumult: it is their very speed that brings them to rest. God will, therefore, have no demonstration of impatience in the carrying out of his purposes. Sometimes the Church rests, as if afflicted with indifference. We are too much urged in some circumstances; we have mistaken the place and happy effect of tranquillity. It is quite true that some may misunderstand this and sink into indifference, but they turn God's water of life into poison, and probably nothing that wisdom could say would restrain them in their infatuation. We must speak to the wise and the thoughtful and understanding, and reflect that there are times when we do most by doing nothing, and that we advance with the greatest pace when we stand still. Happy indeed, and often timely, is the exhortation which pricks us forward; but we are not saved by works. This human urgency is often a misapplication of divine teaching and purpose.
"And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host" ( Jos 3:2 ).
In this verse we learn that something came to pass after "three days." A wonderful place that period of time occupies in history! There seems to be some spiritual magic in that number. The words ought not to be read hastily, as if they but indicated an accidental period of time. There are no such periods as can be described as merely accidental or fortuitous. The whole feast of time is measured out; every man has his portion in due season; every life is started with a foreknown and fore-regulated dowry of days. There is an appointed time to man upon the earth in the deepest sense of the terms a little period within which he may labour the longest life but a flying shuttle. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." One thing is certain, amid all the dubitation and change of this earthly scene: that life at its best is brief, and that no man can calculate its duration with a view to fixing its termination. "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh," to call up his servants to account, to hold judgment in his household. The great principle of individualism has not been surrendered by the Bible; still it is true that every one of us must given an account of himself to God. Whilst, therefore, we are not unwilling to have the individual sometimes merged in the social, whilst it may be pleasant and profitable and useful that the unit should realise its relation to the whole number, it should never be forgotten that individuality is to be the law of responsibility and the law of judgment. We cannot rub ourselves out as individuals, or so merge ourselves into the common life as to cease to have a personal pulse and a personal destiny. The "three days" are passed with some of us: we ought now to be at work; the rest was only for three days, the work is of an immeasurable duration. Do not expend the rest thoughtlessly or unworthily, but make it a time of recruital of strength, so that youth may be renewed and every faculty may be reinvigorated. In the third verse we find a command given:
"And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing, it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it." ( Jos 3:3 )
The religious element was to prevail in that great military plan. We do not read altogether about soldiership, schemes and plans and maps, which indicate the warrior's genius. The controversy is religious; at the head of it goes the Covenant. Let us see to it that we take no part in any history that is not headed by the Book of God. Nothing is worth fighting for that is not symbolised by that book, and it will comfort us in days and nights of stress and hard weather to know that wherever we are, we have come up to that position on account of the leadership of the book. This is what we want: more Bible the Bible in the people's tongue, the Bible open to every old man and every little child; we want to speak of Bible things in Bible terms; we require now to follow the Covenant. If the Book of God is not at the head of the procession in which we are moving, the procession is moving into darkness, disaster, and humiliation.
A space was to be between the marching host and the advancing ark. For what purpose? That every man in the procession might know his relation to the holy ark:
"Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go" ( Jos 3:4 ).
"... for ye have not passed this way heretofore" ( Jos 3:4 ).
This passage is often misunderstood, and therefore misapplied. It cannot simply mean, This is an unfamiliar path; or, This is new ground; or, This is a position which you have never occupied before; for then the same observation would apply to the whole course which the Israelites had been pursuing for many years. This is not a provision against the dangers that may arise from unfamiliar scenes. We have here indicated a new point of history. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore" means: Up to this time you have had cloud by day and fire by night; now there will be no cloud, there will be no fire; now you pass as obedient to a written and treasured Word; you have now become a great Bible school, a great army following a written inspiration. A great light shines upon the instruction now. Up to this time we have felt the words which conclude the fourth verse to be but a commonplace, which might have been applied to the history of Israel any time during almost half a century before; but now we see that a new method of travelling is adopted a new object of vision is let down from heaven; and although the method of revelation may change, nothing ever changes the Bible itself in the substance of its meaning. A revised version is not a new revelation. A new Bible is not a new testimony. It is because of the scholarship which has been lavished upon it a more sure word of prophecy, but the prophecy itself abideth for ever. What can we understand of this Covenant in the way in which it is too often read? Some men are calling for the restoration of theological systems, and others are calling for obedience to scientific discovery and law; without saying one word of deprecation in reference to either of the parties, we may again and again put in a word for Bible reading, Bible study; for giving the Bible an opportunity of speaking continuously, and thus argumentatively and persuasively. He would not be unjust to his age who charged it as a Bible-neglecting age. The Church itself does not always read the Bible aright. The Bible is read in texts. He would not be too bold a man who affirmed that isolated texts had done more to hinder the progress of truth than any assault that was ever made upon Christianity from the outside. Men should humble themselves in crying penitence before God because they have torn the seamless robe and given it away in rags The Bible is one; the Bible is a stupendous whole. Could we hear its cry it would be, Read me; read me all; read me through in every page, line, word, and syllable. O earth, earth, earth! hear the word of the Lord! What is at the head of the armies of the day? What new programmes! what exciting propositions! what criminal promises! The Christian should insist that the Church at least should follow no leadership but the ark of the eternal testimony. Every college should rise up in the morning to do one thing read the Bible. Every congress and conference should meet to do one thing read the Bible. Every congregation should come, together for one purpose to read the Bible. This would absorb all the little rods of necromancers and wonderworkers, and would end in such practical mediums of expression as would suit the new life; and though many mistakes of an external and temporary kind might be made, the outcome would be as the flowing of the river of God. How can the Bible be read alone? This inquiry points to a sophism which is working great mischief in the Christian Church. A man will say, in some unworthy mood of sullenness or resentment, that he will remain at home and read his Bible. He may remain at home, but he cannot read his Bible in that temper. Compelled to remain at home by stress of circumstances, by infirmity, by ill-health in himself or in others, he may read the Bible alone, and God will treat him as if he were the whole assembly of the blessed, withholding nothing from his loving attention and gentle touch. But there is a public reading of the Book a common reading. Noble is the term the Book of Common Prayer. That phrase is full of sacred import. There is common prayer, there is common reading, there is a public emphasis, there is a contagion of sympathy; there is given to the united perusal of the Bible answers which cannot be given to any solitary recluse who shuts himself away from the Church as if the Church were unworthy of his presence. Would we have the world cleansed, disinfected of all evil literature? Let the Bible be read interestingly, lovingly, with sympathy and with delight. Would we have great thoughts, noble purposes, sublime expectations which put out the little trials of the day? We must let the word of Christ dwell in us richly an answer to every temptation, a light regularly as the night descends, a spring of water in a thirsty land. Stand up for the Bible! Do not stand up for it without first reading it and becoming imbued with its spirit. Defend the Bible in the spirit of the Bible, which is a spirit of sovereign power and redeeming love. Punctuate your reading with your tears, and then when you preach even the terror of the law, it will be to persuade men fire used, not to burn but to enlighten, not to destroy but to cheer. My hope for the future of history is in the continuous, connected, and massive study of the Holy Scriptures.
Almighty God, thou art round about us and within us, and thy nearness is an encouragement and a joy. Surely it is not wholly a judgment, a piercing and destructive criticism, but a help, a comfort, a sustenance infinite. So will we regard it in Jesus Christ thy Son our Saviour. We will not be afraid of thee: God is love; we will draw near unto thee, yea, with boldness we will come to the throne of grace, not that we may plead our righteousness, but that we may obtain thy mercy and grace to help in every time of need. We would live the wise life; we would that ours might be the life that is rooted in God, by consent as well as by necessity. We are in God, all things are embraced by thine infinity all evil, all hell, all good, all heaven the Lord reigneth. But we do not want it so wholly; we want to be in God by consent; we would fix our love upon God, and our faith and our hope should trim its daily lamp at the flame of thy glory. Thus would we live and move and have our being in God, returning to him, going out from him to speak his word, and coming again to him to hear his word that we may speak it still more simply and gladly. We have heard thy word, and we know it: it is no stranger's voice that speaks to us therein; we know the music. Imitators there can be none; we know the music of thy grace and the tunefulness of thy comfort We cannot be deceived; for there is no voice like the eternal. May we hear it, receive it, and answer it with all loving obedience; then shall our joy be full, and our day shall have no night. Thou hast sent us into a mysterious life. Sometimes, by reason of our ignorance, it looks nothing: it is a mere trifle, a spasm, a flutter for one little moment, followed by eternal silence; but this is the fool's reasoning: whilst we look upon our life and muse upon it and study the divine purpose which lies under it, how solemn is life, how grand; how majestic in mystery; how glorious in possibility! Thou dost tear our hearts that our hearts may know themselves. When thou dost tantalise us it is that we may be taught the mystery of prayer; when thou dost disappoint us, it is not to mock us but to show us that things are larger than we thought more mysterious, more awful. May we no longer live as those who have no centre, no altar, no God; but live the deep life and the true, feeding ourselves upon the bread sent down from heaven, lost in wonder, love, and praise as we gaze upon the truth of God; and thus may our life, being divinely nourished, express itself in human beneficence: may we go about doing good, knocking at doors that are shut upon us, that in opening them we may find an opportunity of preaching Christ and exemplifying the light of heaven. Pity us in our distresses so acute, so many, so difficult to bear; save us from looking at those who seem to have no distresses, lest our faith be swallowed up in despair: may we not look upon such, may we turn our eyes to the hills whence cometh our help; show us that every heart knoweth its own bitterness, that there may be no mourning or complaining against the supposed partiality of heaven. Thou dost give every day a night, every summer a winter, every life a burden to carry; thou hast thrown a shadow upon the sunniest way. Help us to know that these things are of God, and are under God's control, being meant in love, and at last will be shown to be parts of a divine and beneficent purpose. Look upon us according to our need: it is a great necessity, but thy fulness is more than our hunger, the riches of God are unsearchable, the river of God is full of water. We bless thee for all we have seen of thy hand: we still commit ourselves wholly to its protection and guidance; they win who fight under thy banner, thou Saviour-God; they that be for us are more than all that can be against us, and when thou dost press upon the enemy with the weight of thine eternity, behold he is crushed and cannot rise. Follow us about all the day as if thou hadst no other concern. We are so foolish, so unutterably inexperienced in all the deepest mysteries and ways of life: our record every eventide is full of crossing and blundering; still have patience with us, for by thy grace we will tomorrow do better. Pity the broken heart; give enlargement of thought and brightening of hope to the soul that repents and longs to do thy will more obediently and perfectly; establish, strengthen, settle every good word, thought, and purpose; and as for the counsel of the wicked one, turn it upside down, and by pouring darkness of sudden night upon him may he never be able to find his way again. The Lord pardon our sin. Come over our guilt as over a mountain, and by the touch of the mystery of the Cross may that mountain be dissolved and the union between God and the soul be for ever completed. Send upon us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter; may he abide with us for ever; teach us with infinite patience, and sustain us with tenderest, sweetest solaces. Amen.
Up to the Brink
"And the Lord said unto Joshua, this day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee" ( Jos 3:7 ).
"THIS DAY." It is pleasant to come upon the definite time.
We are to be so blessed "tomorrow," but tomorrow never yet came to any human life: it is always the next day; no man has seen it; its shape no man can tell, its messages no man has heard; it is the unborn time. In the instance before us we have the day and the blessing assigned to it, so that, as it were, the soul leaps into the immediate heaven, saying, Behold, that heaven is here and now! There are days of enlargement, intellectual and spiritual and moral, in human life, days that dawn upon the mind like an infinite summer; days in which we see the meaning of words, the relation of scattered things, the unity of what we supposed was but chaos. These are days of liberty; there falls from us, almost consciously and audibly, manacles and fetters that bound us in humiliating slavery, and we spring into great enlargement and are conscious of divine communion. Call these days birthdays! When were you born? is a limited question. Any birthday of the flesh is no birthday; it but gives a man a chance to be born. He is not born who is not conscious of the advent within him, bringing with it sense of responsibility and willingness to submit to sacrifice, and the hope that no sacrifice can kill him for more than three days. We may pray for the day of enlargement and ennoblement, but the best way of praying for that day is to work for it. If we work well today we may get the enlargement tomorrow. Work is prayer: hence the grand Lutheran motto "to labour is to pray."
"This day will I begin to magnify thee." We can almost see the beginning of the magnifying of some lives. Although things do grow very subtly and all but invisibly, and often altogether invisibly as to process, yet we sometimes feel as if we saw the child become a man. It was in the darkness we saw it the darkness of a trouble that seemed to come too soon. The boy was playing, laughing loudly, running merrily round the little circles of opening life, a boy all laughter; and a great distress fell upon him, new responsibilities were instituted, he began to see the situation, and as it came upon him in great volumes of darkness, see how he stood up in a new stature and a new strength, and put out his arm as if he might tackle, with valour and hopefulness, the hardest task of time. There are times when we are magnified by the possession of conscious intellectual strength. At these times we can do anything. We hover above the world, and descend upon it, and rise again, and touch it with more than adequate strength, and retire from it in ease and majesty, and return with redoubled energy. So then, labour is rest, and endurance is the counterpart of heroism. Woe unto that life that is unconscious of being magnified, that does not go in the upward direction. Are there not men who are no larger today, in mind, purpose, and outlook, than they were five-and-twenty years ago? They have had no dream, no vision; they have heard nothing unusual; they have not seen heaven opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. How dull that life, if not criminal! how monotonous, if not guilty! pitiful everywhere in the common school pitiful but how infinitely more pitiful in the Christian Church than anywhere else! No burning bush, no startling voice, no conscious call to nobler service, no seizure of inheritances infinite in wealth; still the old life, the old monotony, repeating the old phrases and not knowing their meaning. All true magnifying, however, is from God. A man cannot make himself really great: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. But this we can do: we can be prepared for larger magnitude of personality and influence; we can be found waiting, watching, looking; we can use the one talent as if it were a thousand, and be as industrious about the little plot of ground as if it were an estate of countless acres. Whom does God magnify? The humble, the contrite, the broken-hearted, the faithful, the industrious. Does he grant the magnifying all at once? Not according to the observation of the text. He begins to magnify; he shows a new aspect of the mind: persons are surprised at a new development of power, a new tone in the voice, a new expression in the attitude; they say, something has occurred here what is it? and by the end it will be discovered whether the magnifying is an inflation or a divine call and investiture.
Wonderful, too, is the way in which the word of chastening mingles with the word of encouragement: "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee" not more so. Moses is not dishonoured or thrown into any secondary place: he will abide until he comes whose right it is to reign. So Joshua must still peruse the life of Moses, look upon himself as a continuation of a grand beginning. He does not detach himself from his official ancestry and found a house of his own: he is but a golden link in a golden chain; and because we are but links none must magnify himself unduly, or suppose that he will start a new humanity in his vain and frail personality. And again, and still more subtly, does the Lord show that all his manifestations in and through his officers are meant to reveal his own glory. Human greatness is a revelation of God's presence. Moses is not great except as God is with him; Joshua would be a little and unknown name if God did not burn in it and cause it to radiate throughout the whole circumference of immediate history: the Church is not great except for the purpose of showing that the great God is within her walls. We are to look through Moses to Jehovah; through Joshua to the great, all-inspiring, all-construing God.; and through the Church, with all its ministries and instrumentalities, its white lights and glorious stars and great inheritances, to the all-giving God. From him is every donation. There is but one donor: we are the instruments in his hands. Do not look at. Moses, do not look at Joshua, do not look at the institutions of the Church, except as mediums through which we may see the spiritual glory of the eternal God.
What was Joshua to do? You find the answer in the eighth verse:
"And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan." ( Jos 3:8 )
What effect had this interview upon Joshua? Was he so magnified as to forget himself? You have the answer in the ninth verse:
"And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the Lord your God." ( Jos 3:9 )
So he is "but minister." He does not attempt any crude, originality. He will simply repeat what he has heard, but he will repeat it as a believer. The believer has an emphasis incommunicable to the hypocrite. There is about truth something that endures so well, that stands all friction so strongly, that responds to all necessity so abundantly, that it cannot long be counterfeited: there are masks sold for pence which seem to reproduce it with skill, but the masks become weather-stained, their very skin peels off, and their expression is lost. Truth stands for ever, night and day, the same when the morsels of ice strike it in the face, or the sun blesses it with midday glory. Joshua would but repeat what he had heard. So must every preacher simply read the Bible. If he does not quote texts he must speak biblically that is, in the spirit of the Bible; and he must never wander one inch from the Book: it is his shield and buckler; it is a strong tower to which he may continually resort; it is his authority and warrant.
Joshua thus pledges God to what he is about to say. We must not hesitate to risk the divine name. Joshua said:
"Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites" ( Jos 3:10 ).
Joshua would make the march a religious one. The Christian Church ought to make every department of life a department of itself.
"Let us have no suggestion of possible divine help under such and such circumstances," that is the language of timidity, and timidity is sin in all such relations as are indicated by this history. We do not simply hope that God will be with us, or trust that God may in due time appear for us, or express the dubious desire that all things may turn out better than we might have ventured to expect. That is not religious talk, or if it is talk it is without soul, without emphasis. Risk the divine name, that is to say, pledge it. This was the strength of the old prophets. If such and such things do not befall thee, then God hath not spoken by my mouth; "thus saith the Lord." The prophets thus put God in the foreground, and made him true or false; they pledged his name: with reverent familiarity they put his signature upon every great promise and every grand prediction; they exposed God to criticism, so much so that the mocker availed himself of the opportunity and said, Ha, ha, where is now thy God? he called God his father, let him save him, if he will have him; and the fool wagged his head, and the sneerer laughed over his own gibe. We have omitted the divine name from our speech; we have risked nothing; we have but contributed one more to the endless number of suggestions made for the benefit and progress of the world. Let the good man not hesitate to say to the good-doer God shall be with thee, and deliver thee in six troubles and in seven; and when the day is as the night and the night is sevenfold in blackness, his hand shall find thee and his counsel shall be thy strength. These are the great speeches, not words that mothers might speak to children or fathers might whisper to sons, but the great speeches that pledge eternity, which, if not carried out, would sweep all the stars from heaven and make the universe an empty temple. To what are we now pledging God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost? it is possible whilst professing a religious faith to ignore it in its practical applications.
A very beautiful expression occurs in the twelfth verse:
"Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man." ( Jos 3:12 )
What was to come to pass when the whole instruction had been obeyed?
"And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap" ( Jos 3:13 ).
Almighty God, we will think now of thy redemption wrought out for us in Christ Jesus thy Son, and for the moment we will not be cast down but lifted up as upon a great wave of gladness. We have been told that we are polluted and unholy, until the story has thrown us into despair: we know it to be true; but now we would turn our eyes unto the Cross set up for sinners, the mystery of eternity, the enigma of time: the angels cannot understand it, we are unable to comprehend all the wonders of its love and pity, but our hearts are glad whilst they gaze upon it: they see beyond the pain and the sorrow and the darkness, they behold great lights, opening heavens, expanding and assured liberties, and they are glad with a great joy. Sorrow endureth for a night; joy cometh in the morning. The night cannot be so long as the day. The night of sin is not thine; the bow of peace is thine, and high noon, all the firmament glowing with light-seeds, and is some faint type of thine infinite glory. The night shall be lost; it shall never come again; that cloud shall be broken up and dissolved and for ever forgotten. But the light of thy countenance shall be heaven, the glory of thy presence shall make the whole home of the saints. We will therefore be glad and rejoice, and find in thine house a place of banqueting and feasting, so that the soul may be made fat with the promises of God and our life be made strong by divine encouragement. We have come from many places into one house: is not this a hint of what shall be in the great future of promise and prediction? Shall we not come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and sit down in our father's house? Shall not all alienations be forgotten, and all differences be absorbed, and all hearts be united in one commmon and everlasting loyalty? This is our prospect in Christ Jesus; to this end he came and taught and suffered and died and rose again; nor can he rest whilst one shadow of sin rests on the fair universe: behold, he is pledged to receive unto himself the very ends of the earth: all the heathen shall be his, all kings shall bow down before him, and gold and incense bring. May we enter into the spirit of this joy; may we feel that the slavery of the past is forgiven, forgotten, and that a great future of light and growth and liberty challenges and encourages the soul. Wherever a burden is too heavy for the strength, Lord, increase the power of endurance; wherever the tears cannot be explained, do thou speak a message to the heart in secret; wherever the perplexity is thick and defiant, persisting in its stubbornness notwithstanding all that human skill can do, come from thy sanctuary and help the perplexed; wherever sin is a spectre in the air, a touch in the darkness, a flash of fire in the conscience, show thy Cross, thou Saviour of the world, and save the creation of God. Thus come to us every one now and at all times, and thy coming shall be like the dawning of the day, and like the opening of a great door which leads us into home and peace and plentifulness. Amen.
"Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"Come hither, and hear the words of the Lord your God." Jos 3:9
In the Old Testament, the question of place has never been regarded as inferior. To us locality is a matter of little or no importance, but to the Hebrew locality was an element of true worship. The Israelites were in this instance invited to a particular place, in order that they might hear the words of the Lord. Christianity so far enlarges this idea as to find in the sanctuary the place in which God especially reveals himself to earnest and expectant worshippers. Jesus Christ went into the synagogue on the Sabbath-days. Jesus Christ also withdrew from the crowd in order that he might alone commune with God in the silence of night and the solitude of the mountain. There is no doubt an utter destruction of the idolatry of place in Christianity; but the destruction of idolatry is not equal to the deconsecra-tion of given places of worship: the altar is still holy; the church is still recognised as praying-ground in an especial sense, namely, the sense of bringing together men of common sympathies and common aspirations, and giving them to feel the security of nearness and multitude. Whilst it is possible to pray in the great throng, and even to commune upon deep subjects amid the noise of the world, yet Silence will ever be regarded as constituting a kind of sanctuary in which the soul more especially delights. Every Isaac will feel a pleasure in going into the fields at eventide to meditate. There is a kind of thought which may be said to have its residence in the mountains, and a kind of praise which may be said to reach its noblest expression amid the waves of the great deep. The mere act of "coming" is itself a religious exercise; it means withdrawment from usual avocation or entertainment, and specialty of thought and service: it breaks up the idea of commingling and intermixture, which too often tends towards earthliness rather than towards heavenliness, and constitutes in itself a severe trial of intellectual attention and moral expectation. Such coming means willingness to set apart time for Christian purposes, and to create opportunities for spiritual education. Coming is thus, in some degree, a sacrifice, a token of the heart's willingness to obey God rather than yield to the clamour of earthly appeals. All men are the better for coming together for religious service. We get something in fellowship which we can never get in solitude. Men belong to one another in this sense, and are not complete in the absence of one another. Even where physical association is impossible, the very act of yearning after the absent, and compelling them to be spiritually present, is in itself an expression of the noblest religious feeling. Atmosphere will always have its effect upon moral education. Here the great subject of environment shows its importance. Whilst there may be some minds so strong and independent as to create their own atmosphere, yet looking at men in the generality, they require the help of locality and all the subtile suggestion of association and habitude in order to excite religious impulse and expectation to the highest point. -There is great plausibility in the sophism that men can hear the words of the Lord anywhere. Jesus Christ did not mean to teach that doctrine when he told the woman at the well, "Neither in this place, nor at Jerusalem, shall men worship the Father;" he merely meant to destroy the idolatry of place, not its consecration; his idea was one of inclusiveness, not of exclusiveness; and his purpose was to show that men could everywhere pray, and that, when compelled to abstain from consecrated places, that compulsion would not interfere with the integrity or prevalence of prayer. Men can live everywhere, but they can live best at home. Men can express their thoughts in any language, but there will always be about the mother-tongue a tenderness which cannot be communicated by any other. Men can see in other men brothers, but they can see in family likenesses and feel in family sympathies what cannot be found elsewhere. It is so with religious life in relation to the Church. The fact that some men are superstitious upon these points must not destroy rational veneration. So long as the Church preserves the peculiarity of its function, and strenuously endeavours to meet the abiding demands of human instinct and reason, it can never lose its hold upon the confidence of the world.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 3". Parker's The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent