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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Deuteronomy 30

 

 

Verses 4-6

DISCOURSE: 224

THE RESTORATION AND CONVERSION OF THE JEWS

Deuteronomy 30:4-6. If any of thine be driven out unto the out-most parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: and the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

IN interpreting the Holy Scriptures, it is common with many to dwell almost exclusively upon the literal or historical sense of them, and to confine their meaning to the persons to whom the different parts were immediately addressed, or of whom they spake. But this limits the use of the sacred volume in such a manner, as to render it of little service to us. By supposing that it related only to other persons and other times, we get rid of its authority, destroy its power over our conscience, and learn to set aside every doctrine which we are not willing to receive, and every precept which we do not choose to practise. But there is an opposite error, against which also we ought to be on our guard. Some are so intent on the spiritual sense of Scripture, as almost entirely to overlook the literal. But the primary meaning is often as replete with instruction as any that can be affixed to the words, and incomparably more satisfactory to a well-informed mind. For instance, if we should take occasion from our text to speak of the nature and effects of true conversion, in bringing us to God and renovating our souls, we might speak what was good and useful; but the primary sense of the passage leads us to another subject, which ought to be of equal importance in our eyes, namely, The Restoration and Conversion of the Jews.

In discoursing then on the words before us, we shall notice,

I. The events to which they relate:—

That which first demands our attention, is, The restoration of the Jews—

[Very much is spoken, in the prophets on. this subject: and though a great part of their declarations respecting it may be considered as having received their accomplishment in the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, there are some which evidently refer to a period yet future. The Prophet Ezekiel associates it with their acknowledgment of one Prince, whom he calls David [Note: Ezekiel 37:21-25.]. But there was not any prince after the captivity to whom that name can with any propriety be applied in such a view; whereas the Lord Jesus Christ is often spoken of under that name: and therefore it is reasonable to conclude, that the restoration spoken of must take place after the establishment of Christianity in the world. Indeed so strong are the declarations of Scripture upon this subject, that an expectation of the event universally obtains throughout the Christian world. What the precise time will be, we cannot absolutely fix: but we believe that they will be gathered from all quarters of the earth, and possess again their own land, agreeably to the literal expressions of our text: and it is highly probable, that the time is not far distant. As for the objections arising from the difficulty of carrying such a measure into execution, or from the barrenness of the land of Canaan, they vanish the very moment we open the Scriptures, and see what God did for them in former times. If God has ordained it, every mountain will become a plain.]

Nearly connected with this is their conversion to Christianity—

[If we suppose a doubt to arise respecting the former, there exists not even a shadow of a doubt respecting this. The Apostle Paul represents it as assuredly determined in the divine counsels, and infallibly to be accomplished in due season. The people of God in every age may be regarded as one tree, of which Abraham may be considered as the root. The Jews after a time were broken off, as fruitless branches; and the Gentiles were grafted on their stock: and, when the appointed season shall arrive, God will again engraft the Jews upon their own stock, and make both Jews and Gentiles one tree, that shall fill the whole earth. It is by this latter measure that God’s designs of love and mercy to the Gentiles also shall be perfected: for the conversion of the Jews will awaken the attention of the unconverted Gentiles, and be the means of bringing in the fulness of the Gentiles [Note: Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15; Romans 11:23-29.] — — —

The change that will be wrought upon them will not be merely outward, or consisting in speculative opinions; it will reach to their inmost souls; it will produce in them a circumcision of the heart, an utter abhorrence of all sin, and a fervent love to God, as their reconciled God in Christ Jesus: they will “love him,” I say, “with all their heart, and with all their soul.” True indeed it is that they are very far from this state of mind at present: but so were the murderers of the Lord Jesus on the day of Pentecost; and yet in one hour were converted unto God. So shall it be in the day of God’s power; “a nation shall be born in a day;” “a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: the Lord will hasten it in his time.”]

Such being the prophetic import of the words, let us proceed to notice,

II. The reflections which they naturally suggest—

The present dispersed state of the Jews from which they are in due time to be recovered, is a most instructive subject. We cannot but see,

1. What witnesses they are for God—

[The very person who brought them out of Egypt was inspired to foretell both their present dispersion, and their future restoration. The event has come to pass; and now for nearly eighteen hundred years have this people been scattered over the face of the whole earth, and are preserved a distinct people in every place. The treatment they should meet with was most circumstantially foretold: the hardships they should undergo [Note: Deuteronomy 28:53-57.], the oppression they should endure [Note: Deuteronomy 28:29.], the contempt in which they should be held [Note: Deuteronomy 28:37.], the conviction which they themselves, in common with all mankind, should feel, that their sufferings were inflicted by God himself on account of their iniquities [Note: Deuteronomy 29:21-28.]; all, I say, was foretold; and all is come to pass: and they are living witnesses of the truth of God, and of the divine authority of that book which they profess to have been inspired by him. They may be even said to be witnesses also of the truth of Christianity, which is founded on the Jewish Scriptures, and is altogether the completion of them. What therefore God said to them in the days of old, may with yet augmented force be applied to them at this time, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God [Note: Isaiah 43:12.].”]

2. What warnings they are to us—

[Who that sees the present state of the Jews, and compares it with the predictions concerning them, must not acknowledge that God abhorreth iniquity, and will surely punish it even in his most highly favoured people? Methinks the sight of a Jew should produce this reflection in every mind. The Jews, because they were descended from the loins of Abraham, and had been distinguished by God above all the nations upon earth, imagined themselves to be safe: but when they had filled up the measure of their iniquities in the murder of their Messiah, the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. Let not Christians therefore imagine that the name and profession of Christianity will screen them from the wrath of God. The sentence of exclusion from the heavenly Canaan is gone forth against all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ: and it will assuredly be executed upon them in due time: for “how shall they escape, if they neglect so great salvation?” Our inquiry must be, not, Am I instructed in some particular tenets, or observant of some particular forms? but, Am I “circumcised in heart, so as to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart, and with all my soul?” This is the point to be ascertained; for “if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, he will be anathema maran-atha:” he will be accursed; and God himself will for ever inflict the curse upon him.]

3. What encouragement we have to seek their welfare—

[Notwithstanding God has given so many promises respecting them, the Christian world for many hundreds of years have scarcely thought them worthy of the smallest attention. Christians have been anxious for the welfare of heathens, and have sent missionaries into every quarter of the world to instruct them: but for the Jews they have felt no interest whatever: they have left them to perish without so much as an attempt for their conversion. But what base ingratitude is this! To whom are we ourselves indebted for all our privileges, but to Jews? Who wrote, and preserved with such wonderful care, the Scriptures of the Old Testament? or who wrote the New Testament, but Jews? Who died to redeem our souls from death and hell? a Jew. Who at this moment makes intercession for us at the right hand of God? a Jew. Who manages every thing in heaven and earth for our good, and is a fountain of all spiritual good to our souls? a Jew. Of whom were the whole primitive Church composed for the first six or seven years? Jews. Who went forth with their lives in their hands, to convert the Gentiles; and to whom are we indebted for all the light that we enjoy? they were Jews. Have we then no debt of gratitude to them? And have we not reason to blush when we reflect on the manner in which we have requited them? Blessed be God! there are at last some stirred up to seek their welfare [Note: Preached in 1810.]. Let us unite with heart and hand, to help forward the blessed work. From what we see of their blindness and obduracy, we are apt to despond: but “the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save:” he can as easily engraft them in again upon their own stock, as he could engraft us upon it: and he has therefore engrafted us upon it, that we might exert ourselves in their favour, and be instrumental in restoring them to the blessings they have lost [Note: Romans 11:30-31.]. Let us at least do what we can, and leave the issue of our labours unto God.]


Verses 11-14

DISCOURSE: 226

THE GOSPEL CLEARLY CONTAINED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT [Note: The author’s First Address to the Jews, at St. Catharine Cree, London. The preceding Discourse on the same text was written many years before, for Gentiles; this in 1818, for Jews.]

Deuteronomy 30:11-14. This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

THE Old Testament is a rich mine of spiritual knowledge, and reflects as much light upon the New Testament as itself receives from this fuller revelation of God’s will. Each is necessary to the understanding of the other: in that is the model of the edifice, which, under the Christian dispensation, has been erected: and, if it were duly attended to, it would prove sufficient to convince the whole world, that Christianity is Judaism perfected and completed; perfected in all its types, and completed in all its prophecies. To this effect spake Moses in the words before us. “The commandment” which he mentions, is not to be understood, as many Jews imagine, of the law given upon Mount Sinai, but of another covenant which God entered into with his people in the land of Moab; and which was, in fact, the covenant of grace. It is by Moses himself distinguished from the covenant of works [Note: Deuteronomy 29:1.]: and that distinction is confirmed by the account which he gives of it elsewhere. The law, as published on Horeb or Mount Sinai, made no provision for the pardon of any sin whatever: it simply said, “Do this and thou shalt live:” but the covenant made afterwards in the land of Moab, was ratified with the blood of sacrifices; which blood was sprinkled upon the altar, the book, and all the people [Note: Exodus 24:3-8.]; and therefore sprinkled, that they might know how to seek the remission of their sins, as often as occasion for it should arise [Note: The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who was so deeply conversant with the whole of the Mosaic law, refers to this very covenant in this precise point of view. Hebrews 9:19-20.]. In this act the gospel way of salvation was set before them; so that they needed not henceforth to be looking for any one to come down from heaven, like Moses, or from the depths of the sea, like Jonah, to proclaim it, seeing that it was “very nigh unto them” already, even “in their mouth,” which approved of the law, and “in their heart,” which loved it.

The things which the Gospel more particularly inculcates, are, Repentance, Faith, and Obedience; and these are almost as clearly revealed in the Old Testament as in the New.

To shew this to the Jewish people is, I conceive, the very first step towards bringing them to Christianity. The Apostles, when preaching to the Jews, always appealed to the Old Testament in confirmation of all that they delivered: and I also, after their example, will endeavour to shew you, my Jewish Brethren, that your own Scriptures declare in the plainest terms,

I. That you are guilty and condemned by the moral law.

The law is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God; and it requires of every human being an obedience to all its commands. For one single transgression it utterly and eternally condemns us: nay more, it requires every individual to express his assent to this as true, and his approbation of it as right and good: “Cursed is he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them: and all the people shall say, Amen [Note: Deuteronomy 27:26.].” But of the impossibility of coming to God by the law, we have a most striking illustration in the conduct of your forefathers at the very time that the law was given: they were so terrified by all that they saw and heard, that they repeatedly declared, that, if the same scenes should pass again, “they should die:” they entreated that God would no more speak to them himself, but give them a Mediator, through whom they might receive his law in a mitigated form, and divested of those terrors which they were not able to endure. And of this request God expressed the highest approbation, saying, “They have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them [Note: Deuteronomy 5:22-29.]!” In this matter, dearly beloved, my heart responds to the wish of your Almighty Lawgiver, ‘O that there were in you such an heart!’ Could we but once see you thoroughly convinced of your guilt and condemnation by the law, we should have no fear of your speedily and thankfully embracing the salvation offered you in the Gospel. The great obstacle to your reception of the Gospel is, that instead of regarding the law as a ministration of death and of condemnation, you are looking for life from obedience to it. True it is that temporal blessings were promised to obedience: and that eternal blessings also were promised to those who should “lay hold on God’s covenant,” and keep his commandments. But the covenant on which they were to lay hold, was that which had been made with their father Abraham; and which never was, nor could be, disannulled by the law. The law, as published on Mount Sinai, was intended to shut them up to this covenant, by making known to them the impossibility of being saved in any other way than by the promised Seed. And, when once you understand and feel this, you will not be far from the kingdom of God.

This conviction would also prepare you for another lesson taught you by Moses; namely,

II. That you must be saved altogether by an atoning sacrifice.

This was taught you throughout the whole ceremonial law: the daily and annual sacrifices proclaimed it to your whole nation. Nor was this merely taught in theory; it was required of every offender, whatever his sin might be, to bring his sacrifice, in order that it might be put to death in his stead, and deliver him from the condemnation which his sin had merited. Even for sins of ignorance this was required; and the offender, whether he were a priest, or an elder, or a ruler, or one of the common people, was required to put his hands on the head of his sacrifice, and thus, by the most significant of all actions, to transfer to it his sins [Note: Leviticus 4:4; Leviticus 4:15; Leviticus 4:24; Leviticus 4:29.]. What an instructive ordinance was this! Yet was the ordinance of the scape-goat, if possible, still more instructive. On the great day of annual expiation, the high-priest, after killing the goat on which the Lord’s lot had fallen, was to put his hands on the head of the scape-goat, and to confess over him all the sins of all the children of Israel; and then the goat was led into the wilderness from before them all, never more to be seen; that so the removal of their sins might be made visible, as it were, to their bodily eyes [Note: Leviticus 16:20-22.].

Yet, whilst this glorious truth was thus plainly declared, the insufficiency of the legal sacrifices, and the necessity of a better sacrifice, was proclaimed also. For these very sacrifices were to be repeated from year to year; which shewed, that the guilt expiated by them was not fully removed. Hence the very sacrifices were, in fact, no other than an annual remembrance of sins, not finally forgiven. In this light they were viewed by those of your forefathers whom you cannot but venerate, and whom I believe to have been inspired of God, the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: See Hebrews 10:1-4.].

The same thing was intimated by the very partial appointment of sacrifices. There were many sins, as adultery and murder, for which no sacrifice was appointed. Indeed, presumptuous sins, of whatever land they were, if remission was to be obtained by sacrifices, could never be forgiven; because no sacrifice was appointed for them. Nor, in truth, was any man made perfect as pertaining to the conscience by any of the sacrifices; because every man had a secret suspicion at least, if not conviction, that the blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin [Note: See Hebrews 10:1-4.]. Still, however, the great end was answered of directing the eyes of all to the appointed sacrifices, and through them to the Lord Jesus Christ, the great sacrifice, whose blood alone can cleanse from sin, and who is “a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.”

Dear Brethren, it was to this better sacrifice that David looked, when, after the commission of adultery and murder, he prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow [Note: Psalms 51:7.].” Let your eyes be directed to the same sacrifice, even to your Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the Prophet Isaiah says, “He was wounded for our transgressions:” and again, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.” This is He whom your forefathers pierced, and nailed to the cross; and through whom thousands of those who crucified him, found peace with God: and, if you also could now be persuaded to look unto him for salvation, you would immediately experience the effect produced by the brasen serpent in the wilderness, and be healed every one of you. O that you would obey the direction given you in the writings of your own prophets, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” You would no longer continue strangers to peace and joy; (for strangers ye must be to these divine sensations, whilst ye are condemned by the law, and ignorant of the way in which your guilt is to be removed:) on the contrary, your “peace should flow as a river,” and, as “children of Zion, you . should be joyful in your King.”

But further, it is declared in your law,

III. That all who are thus saved, must be holy in heart and life.

God, as you know, requires you to be “holy as he is holy;” and to be “a peculiar people unto him above all the people upon earth.” And I the rather bring this to your minds, because you are ready to think that we wish to proselyte you to Christianity, that we may have to glory in such an accession to our cause. But I beg leave to assure you, that I would not move a finger to proselyte your whole nation to our religion, if I did not at the same time raise them to be better men, fitter to serve their God on earth, and fitter to enjoy him for ever in heaven. And this I entreat you to bear in mind. It is to the divine image that we wish to bring you, and to the full possession of that blessing promised to you by Jehovah himself; “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. And I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh, and will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and to keep my judgments and do them [Note: Ezekiel 36:25-27.].” This is necessary for you, as it is also for us: nor have we ourselves any other rule of conduct than that which was prescribed to you in the Ten Commandments. The advantage we have in the New Testament is not that new things are revealed to us, but that the things originally revealed to you are made more clear and intelligible. Not that in your Scriptures there is any obscurity in relation to this matter: we may truly say, “It is not far off, nor is it hidden from you; but it is very nigh unto you, even in your hands and in your mouth:” I pray God we may be able to add, as Moses did in my text, that it is “in your heart” also!

And now permit me to address a few words to you, my Jewish Brethren—

It is to your own Scriptures that I wish in the first instance to direct your attention: for you yourselves know that they testify of your Messiah, and are intended to direct you to him. It is greatly to be lamented, that they are not studied amongst you as they ought to be; and that your Rabbis for the most part pay more deference to the voluminous commentaries with which your Scriptures are obscured, than to the Scriptures themselves. But let it not be so with you. Begin to search the Scriptures for yourselves: search them as for hid treasures; and pray to God to give you his Holy Spirit, to instruct you, and to guide you into all truth. When you take the blessed book of God into your hands, lift up your heart to God, and say with David, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law!” Then compare your Scriptures with ours, the Old Testament with the New; and mark how exactly they correspond with each other, even as the vessel with the mould, or the wax with the seal. Then I fear not but that you will soon acknowledge Him of whom the Law and the Prophets do speak, even Jesus of Nazareth, to be the true Messiah, the Saviour of the world. Yes; he whom you have hitherto rejected will become precious to your souls: and you will, in a far higher sense than you have ever yet been, become the children of Abraham, and the sons of God.

To the Christian part of this auditory I will also beg leave to address a few words—

You have seen that with care and labour I have endeavoured to establish the true import of my text from the writings of Moses himself. But, if I had been speaking to you only, I might have spared that trouble, having the text already explained to my hand by God himself. St. Paul tells us, that the commandment which was nigh to the Jews, was the Gospel itself, even that word of faith which declares, that whosoever with the heart believes in Christ, and with the mouth confesses him, shall assuredly be saved [Note: Romans 10:5-13.]. How thankful should we be for such a light! and having been favoured with it, shall we conceal it from our Jewish brethren, from whom, under God, we have received it? What would you think of a man, who, being stationed in a light-house for the purpose of warning ships in its vicinity to avoid some rocks, and of directing them into a safe harbour, should, when he saw a whole fleet approaching, conceal the lights, and leave the whole fleet to perish on the rocks; and, when called to an account for his conduct, should say, ‘I did not think it right to create any alarm among the crews and their passengers?’ Would you think his excuse valid? Would you approve of his pretended benevolence? Would you not rather be filled with indignation against him, and say, that the blood of all who perished should be required at his hands? Do not ye then act in a way, which, under other circumstances, you would so severely condemn: but, as God has given you a light, improve it carefully for your Jewish brethren. This is what their fathers did for you, when you were bowing down to stocks and stones. Do ye it then for them, if peradventure you may be the means of enlightening some amongst them, and of saving their souls alive.

At the same time remember, that St. Paul applies the passage unto you; and tells you from it, that you must believe in Christ with your hearts, and confess him openly with your mouths. The word is, in the strictest sense, “very nigh unto you:” read it then, and ponder it in your hearts, and treasure it up in your minds, and live upon it, and glory in it: so shall it be a light to your paths, and make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 227

A FAITHFUL MINISTER’S APPEAL

Deuteronomy 30:19. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I hare set before you life and death, blessing and cursing! therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may lire.

HOWEVER long a minister may continue with his people, he must part from them at last, and be summoned to give up his account of all his ministrations to them. Moses had now presided over Israel for the space of forty years: and the time was come that he must die [Note: Deuteronomy 31:2.]. But, before his death, he warned them with all fidelity, setting life and death before them: and, in the words which I have just read, he appealed to them, that he had discharged his duty towards them fully in these respects; and urged them to improve the privileges which they had so long enjoyed.

Let me call your attention to,

I. His appeal—

It is justly said of him, both in the Old Testament and in the New, that “he was faithful in all his house [Note: Numbers 12:7; Hebrews 3:2.].” And, indeed, not even Paul himself laboured under greater disadvantages, or persevered with more unwearied diligence than he. The whole of God’s laws, moral, ceremonial, judicial, did he make known to the people, enforcing the strict observance of them all (whether “commandments, statutes, or judgments”) on the penalty of death. The violating of any one of them wilfully and presumptuously, was declared to be such an act of rebellion against God, that nothing less than utter excision was the punishment annexed to it [Note: Numbers 15:30.]. On the other hand, he promised to them, that, if they were observant of God’s blessed will, they should live, and long enjoy their promised inheritance [Note: ver. 16–18.]. And so uniformly had he devoted all his time and strength to their service, that he could call both heaven and earth to testify of his fidelity in executing the office that had been assigned him.

Let it not be thought that we would presume to institute a comparison between that holy man and ourselves. We well know how infinitely short of him we have come, in the whole of our personal and official character. Yet we do hope that we can so far adopt his words, as to appeal both to God and man, that, during the years that we have ministered amongst you, we have faithfully, according to our ability, “set life and death before you.”

1. We have ministered the same truths unto you [Note: In quite a young minister this kind of address would be inexpedient: but in an aged minister, who had spent his whole official life in superintending one congregation, it would be thought quite in character.]—

[In the preceding verses, Moses speaks particularly respecting the Gospel, which he had made known unto the people. “This commandment, which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee; in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day, life and good, and death and evil [Note: ver. 11–15.].” The exposition of these words is given us by St. Paul, who tells us, that in them Moses spake, not of the righteousness of the Law, but of the righteousness which is of faith, even of that very faith which Paul himself preached [Note: Romans 10:5-9.].”

And what has been the subject of our ministrations? You yourselves will bear me witness, that, from the very first hour that I came amongst you, “I determined to know nothing amongst you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:2.].” What Moses preached in types and shadows, I have declared in the plainest terms; shewing, at all times, that “the moral law was a schoolmaster to bring you to Christ [Note: Galatians 3:24.];” and that the ceremonial law, in all its ordinances, held forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the great sacrifice, that taketh away the sins of the world [Note: Hebrews 10:1-10.]. Never, at any period, have we attempted to lay any other foundation than this [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:11.]: nor have we ever hesitated to affirm the sufficiency of this to bear the weight of the whole world [Note: Acts 13:39.]”.]

2. We have too, according to our ability, ministered with the same fidelity—

[We hope we may, without presumption, appeal to you, as the Apostle Paul did to the elders of Ephesus, not only that “we have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you,” but that “we have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God; and are therefore, as far as relates to that, pure, not from your blood only, but from the blood of all men [Note: Acts 20:20; Acts 20:26-27.].” You yourselves will bear me witness, that, notwithstanding “the offence of the cross, which neither is ceased, nor can cease [Note: Galatians 5:11.],” I have at all times gloried in it, and exalted it as the only means of our reconciliation with God [Note: Galatians 6:14.]. Nor have I ever amused you with speculative theories: no: I have preached the Gospel practically; and not in a cold and formal manner, but as a matter of life and death. I have never ceased to exhibit it with all its awful sanctions; assuring you of life, if you would believe in Christ; and denouncing the wrath of God against all who would not obey the Gospel; executing in this respect the commission given me, to preach the Gospel to every creature, saying, “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned [Note: Mark 16:15-16.].” Never, at any time, have I dissembled these truths; “never daubed the wall of God’s sanctuary with untempered mortar,” nor “sewed pillows to the armholes of my people,” to let them find ease in sin: never have I “spoken peace to you, when there was no peace,” or “promised life” in any other way than a total surrender of yourselves to God [Note: Ezekiel 13:10; Ezekiel 13:18; Ezekiel 13:22.]. And here I will mention one point, which, from the beginning, I have kept in mind without turning to the right hand or to the left—I have never perverted one passage of Scripture to make it speak the language of human systems. I have been anxious to set before you the “unadulterated word” of God [Note: 1 Peter 2:2 and 2 Corinthians 2:17.]; and to let it speak for itself, without ever concerning myself what human system it either countenanced or opposed: having been “allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, we have spoken, not as pleasing men, but God, who truth our hearts [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:4-5.];” and with the “utmost plainness” too [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:12.], “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom,” “lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5.].”

Whilst, however, “we call heaven and earth to record this day” respecting these things, let it not be supposed that we are not conscious of innumerable short-comings and defects in our ministrations: for we are filled with, nothing but shame and confusion of face in the review of them, God knoweth: but as far as respects the fidelity of them, we can, and do, appeal both to God and man, that, like Moses, we have faithfully and invariably “set before you life and death, blessing and cursing,” according as they are revealed in the Gospel, and as they shall be awarded to those who receive or reject the Gospel.]

And now let me call your attention to,

II. The advice he founds upon it—

“Choose life;”

A free choice is given to every one amongst you—

[The Gospel is freely preached to you all: and you are all at liberty to embrace or to reject it. Almighty God is sincere when he says, that “he would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth [Note: 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9.].” Never did he reprobate any man, till that man had brought that sentence upon himself by his own wilful obduracy. The whole Scripture bears testimony to this truth. If this be not true, how can we ever explain that solemn oath of Jehovah; “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways: for why will ye die, O house of Israel [Note: Ezekiel 33:11.]?” There is not a human being that is excepted from the invitations of the Gospel, or from its blessings, if he accept them. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth! for I am God: and there is none else [Note: Isaiah 45:22.].” And “him that cometh unto me, (whoever he be, or whatever he may have done,) I will in no wise cast out [Note: John 6:37.].” Moreover, the fault of rejecting these overtures is always imputed to the sinner himself: “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life [Note: John 5:40.].” If any could have been supposed to have been reprobated from all eternity, it was the persons who were given up to reject their Messiah, and to crucify the Lord of glory: yet over them did our blessed Lord mourn, saying, “How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not [Note: Matthew 23:37.].” That we have a bias towards corruption, is certain: but there is no compulsion. That Satan also is permitted to tempt us, is certain: but he cannot compel any man. We are perfectly free agents in all that we do, whether it be good or evil. If it be said, that God “draws men,” it is true: but he “draws them with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love [Note: Hosea 11:4.].” And, if he prevail over the reluctance of their hearts, it is not by the exercise of an overpowering force, but by “making them wining in the day of his power [Note: Psalms 110:3.].” If he “work in them to do,” it is by “working in them to will [Note: Philippians 2:13.].” And I will appeal to every living man, whether he ever did good or evil by compulsion against his will? That he has acted against his judgment and his conscience, is true enough, and that in ten thousand instances: but against his will he never did. God sets good before us; and Satan evil: and, whichever we prefer, that we choose, and that we do.]

Exercise, then, your choice with true wisdom—

[The generality, in spite of all that we can say, will choose evil. It is in vain that we endeavour to allure them by the offer of “life,” or to alarm them with the threatening of “death:” they prefer evil with all its consequences: and therefore they do it: as God has said; “He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death [Note: Proverbs 8:36.].” But do not ye act thus. “Choose good:” “choose life; that both ye and your seed may live.” Of the beneficial consequences to yourselves you cannot doubt: for, who ever sought the Lord, and was rejected? “Who ever truly believed in Christ, and was confounded [Note: 1 Peter 2:6.]?” Who ever “chose the good part, and had it violently taken away from him [Note: Luke 10:42.]?” Choose God for your Father; and he will acknowledge you as his children. Choose Christ as your Saviour; and “he will present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” Choose the Holy Spirit as your Sanctifier: and “he will perfect that which concerneth you,” and “complete in you the work he has begun.” Choose heaven for your inheritance: and sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than you be permitted to come short of it. The very choice you make will evince, that you yourselves have been chosen of your God [Note: John 15:16 and 1 John 4:19.]: and “his gifts and calling are without repentance [Note: Romans 11:29.].”

And shall not this tend to the benefit of “your seed” also? Is it not a part of God’s covenant, that “he will put his fear in our hearts, for the good of us, and of our children after us [Note: Jeremiah 32:39.]?” What is there so likely to benefit the rising generation as the piety of their parents? The force of good instruction is great: but when enforced by good example, it is almost irresistible. Children of pious parents, who have diligently instructed them, and “laboured earnestly and constantly in prayer to God for them,” cannot sin so easily as others: or if, through the power of temptation, they be drawn aside after wickedness, they will, it is hoped, feel the remonstrances of conscience in seasons of sickness and reflection, and be brought home at last with penitential sorrow to their God. At all events, we have encouragement to hope, that “our labour for them shall not be in vain in the Lord;” and that, though in some instances we should fail, it shall be found generally true, that, if we “bring up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it.”]

That I may enforce the counsel in my text, I would beg you to consider,

1. The alternative that is here offered you—

[It is not “life” or annihilation, but “life or death;” not “a blessing, or a mere privation of good,” but, “a blessing, or a curse.” And have you ever thought what that “death” is, and what that “curse?” Uh! who shall declare what that “second death” is, in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; or what that “curse,” which shall be there endured? Were annihilation, or eternal sleep, the alternative, you would at least have the consolation of knowing, that you would be unconscious of your loss: but, as you must live for ever, either in heaven or in hell, I entreat you to “choose that life,” which shall be “at God’s right hand, in pleasures for evermore [Note: Psalms 16:11.].”]

2. The responsibility attaching to you for the privileges you enjoy—

[Our blessed Lord said respecting his hearers, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin [Note: John 15:22.].” And may I not say the same to you? Doubtless, if you had the Gospel ministered unto you with less clearness and fidelity, you would have less to answer for, even as Sodom and Gomorrha had on this very account a lighter condemnation than Bethsaida and Capernaum [Note: Matthew 11:20-24.]. It is certainly a great comfort to a minister to know that “he has delivered his own soul [Note: Ezekiel 33:8-9.].” But it is a painful reflection to think, that the very means he has used for the salvation of his people, will in many cases only increase their guilt; and the word he has spoken to them, instead of being to them a savour of life, will only be a savour of death to their more aggravated condemnation. Beloved, let me not have to appear in that day as “a swift witness against you,” but rather have to present you to God as my children [Note: Isaiah 8:18.], and possess you as “my joy and crown of rejoicing for evermore [Note: 1 These. 2:19, 20.].”]

3. The nearness of the final issue—

[Moses had ministered to his people for forty years: and it is now just about that time that I have ministered to you. How much longer God may be pleased to continue my labours amongst you, he alone knows: but, according to the course of nature, it cannot be long. Be in earnest, then, to improve the light whilst you have it [Note: John 12:36.]. Many who are gone to judgment would be glad enough if they could come back again to hear the invitations and warnings which they once slighted. And it is possible, that, when the present ordinances shall have come to an end, and the tongue that has so often warned you lies silent in the grave, you may wish that you had “known the day of your visitation,” and improved the privileges you once enjoyed. Let us all “work while it is day: for the night cometh, when neither your minister can work for you, nor you for yourselves.” And the Lord grant, that, whilst we are continued together, I may so preach the word, and you receive it, that we may stand with boldness before God, and obtain his plaudit in the day of judgment!]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 30:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/deuteronomy-30.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 16 / Ordinary 21
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