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Principles and Duties
A wonderful change has taken place in the tone of Moses. We can tell by his very voice that he is much older than when we first knew him, and much tenderer. When we first heard his voice, we noted how singularly wanting it was in mellowness, sympathy, kindliness, such as sore and wounded hearts may recognise and bless. Throughout the Book of Exodus the tone of Moses was very high, penetrating, and commanding. Then a change took place in the whole manner of the man: he was not less in stature, not less keen of vision; yet somehow he was quieter, perhaps more indulgent, certainly mellower. In Deuteronomy all these qualities of the voice, being also qualities of the spirit, culminate; Moses exhorts, entreats, wrestles with men, that they may be wise and good; there is nothing wanting that is suggestive of ripeness of experience, depth and genuineness of sympathy. Moses becomes shepherd again, only now men and women and children, more wayward than any beasts of the earth, constitute his multitudinous and most trying flock. Read Deuteronomy immediately after Exodus, and mark, though the fire of his eye is not dimmed, the growth of the man in the softening of his voice, in the multitude of his tears, in his pastoral solicitude for the salvation of Israel. The sixth chapter of Deuteronomy is full of exhortation and expostulation. In the third verse we read, "Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey." This is not bribery. Moses must not be conceived of as holding up a prize, saying, This donation is for the best-behaved amongst you. No man can be made good by such temptations. The very desire to have the prize may itself indicate a viciousness inveterate and ineradicable. Moses is not pointing out a reason, but indicating a consequence or issue: whoever observes and does the commandments of God shall enter into largeness of blessing, immeasurable depth of holy contentment, and every land shall be a land flowing with milk and honey. The man makes the land. When men everywhere praise the Lord, the earth shall yield her increase: the swelling psalm of honest thankfulness and the waving harvest of golden wheat shall be seen together upon the earth. No man can do right in order that it may be well with him, but no man can do right without its being consequentially well with every faculty of his mind, every emotion of his spirit, every outgoing of his life. Moses is already preaching the Sermon upon the Mount according to the measure of the light which made up his ancient day. What is he now doing but saying, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you"? "Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do the commandment of God; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily." Our business is with the "hearing" and the "observing," and God's business is with the other end, namely, the end of result, and issue, and blessing.
But Moses soon comes back to central principles. Moses is never less than a philosopher, a philosopher with a broad streak of shepherdliness running all through his mental and moral constitution, but still a philosopher, a reasoner, a theologian. What could be more pregnant with meaning, more inexhaustible in suggestion and poetry, than the fourth verse, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord"? The sentence seems to be easy. There is no simplicity in the Bible that does not hold within its lines the very eternity of Jehovah. We must have a right view of God. The meaning of the exclamation of Moses is not that the Lord our God is one Lord as against some possible distribution of number in His own constitution, but He is one Lord in distinction from all the gods and idols, and all the claimants to human worship known in all the lands and peoples through which Israel has passed; the Lord stands apart from them; he is singular in relation to them; he has no relations with them, unless they be relations of contempt and mockery and disdain. Moses was not arguing a theological proposition: he was not laying down the doctrine of the unity of God as against the tri-unity of God; that sphere of thinking was not involved in this contemplation of the divine nature; Israel was called to monotheism as opposed to polytheism the many gods that ruled the inferior thinking, and accounted for the debasing superstition of mankind.
Yet, though so lofty in his conception, Moses soon becomes tender in his tone. Hence we find in the fifth verse words which even Jesus Christ did not alter: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." God must never be set away from our love that is to say, in some inaccessible region of intellectual contemplation or of high theological imagining. God must be kept quite near to the heart. Once let the heart lose touch of God, and God himself becomes but a distant and infinite idol. Keep the heart right, keep the soul sweet, keep love unmixed and unembarrassed a free, generous, undivided affection, and all the rest will flow out of that central conviction and attitude as a living stream out of a living fountain. The question which the soul should often put to itself should relate to love. There is a place for reverence for the worship so awestruck as to be speechless; but we must always find room for simple, childlike, clinging love. Jesus Christ delighted to paint God as a Being full of love so loving the world as to spare nothing for its redemption and salvation. The love of God culminates in the Cross of Christ. The Cross of Christ is not only the symbol of the Atonement, it is the eternal pledge of a beneficent Providence: not only does it include forgiveness of sin and the way into the liberty and peace of heaven, it includes a guarantee of daily bread and daily care, divine attention to all the details of human life. "If God spared not his own Son" is the basis of Paul's sublime appeal on the matter of human providence and social government. God being the object of love, we ourselves must have the spirit of love in regard to God; we must love God. Love does not reason: love is a poor logician as to forms and symbols; love insists upon speaking its own language and finding its own prayers, and creating its own songs and setting them to its own music. Love will have liberty. Love could never live in prison. Love was made to fly in the open firmament of heaven, to beat its gracious wings against the very gates of the morning, to rise into the holy place of the light, and to come back to do earth's work with heaven's purity and tenderness. Children can love where they cannot understand. Love is before reason and after reason: love passes through the zone of reason, and ascends to the heaven where it was created in the heart and thought of God. Live in reason, and life will be cold; do nothing that cannot be defined and affirmed and indicated by consecutive reasons, and life may become mechanical. Rise into the very passion of love the very sacrificial temper of consecrated affection and the wilderness shall be a garden, and death but a messenger sent to bring the soul into some inner place in God's infinite sanctuary.
Is it enough to have a right conception of the unity of God in relation to the multitudinous idolatries of the world, and to have a right view of the moral qualities of God as opposed to an insensate and unresponsive deity? Moses teaches that there is no religious sufficiency in either or both of these things. Moses will have more. What more he will have he tells us in plain terms: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart" ( Deu 6:6 ). We begin with words; we begin with things and with pictures, with substances and with commandments, visible and utterable; and from all these we may grow away not by an act of separation but by an act of the fulfilment which comes out of development. Christian words are to be in our heart. The heart has a memory of its own. Give into the custody of the heart some lesson, and it will be retained. Men remember what they want to remember, in all the highest relations of life. Intellectual memory is hardly called into operation in this matter of religious communion. The heart is kept alive; the fire upon the altar of the heart never goes out; the heart hears every knock upon the door; the heart sees every sign that is marked upon the spaces of the firmament; the heart overhears all that is passing which has relation to its own development and completion. We are what we are in the heart. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
Are the words of God to be kept in the heart as treasure may be kept in some secret and inviolable place? Is the heart the only organ that is interested in this great matter of religious information and culture? Moses gives the reply: "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children" ( Deu 6:7 ). He who teaches out of his heart will be able to speak to children, even in the simplest sense of that term. Children like teachers who talk out of their hearts. The heart knows all the little words because itself is a little word of one syllable. The heart waits for the very slowest walker in this great quest of the temple of wisdom: the heart says, We must tarry for the cripple. When the intellect would say, Let us urge forward, and the imagination would step from mountain-top to mountain-top, miles at a time, the heart says, Wait! here is a little child who cannot go at that pace; here is a poor old traveller who wants to res awhile; stop! not one must be lost: every child and every cripple and the meanest member of the flock must be saved. There is a way of teaching the words of God: they may be so taught as to repel or discourage or affright; or they may be so taught as to allure, fascinate, entrance, and put out of view every competitive spectacle or seduction. God's word must be spoken in God's way.
Having delivered the words to the children, does the task end there? Moses says it does not end at any such point; he adds, "and shalt talk of them" not lecture upon them, not deliver superb and magnificent orations upon them, but "talk" of them. The very word is suggestive. The words of God are to be so thoroughly in our hearts as to become part of our life, and to mingle with our very breathing; then we may talk about them with the ease of conscious mastery, with the familiarity not only of intellectual intimacy, but of the heart's truest friendship. Religion is not to be introduced upon state occasions, or upon great days, or even upon the Sabbath day as an exclusive period of time. The word of God is to be talked about, is to come into conversation as if it had a right to be there, to elevate the speech of social man, to give grace and dignity and solemnity to all the transactions and covenants which make up the business of the day. To teaching we must add talking; to the formal exposition we must add the informal and most friendly suggestion and the unexpected prayer, coming into conversation with the ease which belongs to perfect acquaintance with the Spirit of God.
Is the teaching to be conducted in the sanctuary, and the talking to be limited to holy places of public resort? Moses gives an answer to these inquiries, and there is no escape from the comprehensive terms in which his response is couched: "when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" ( Deu 6:7 ). Here is a religion which covers the whole day, which belongs to every attitude of man, which condescends to flow into the mould of daily position and continual progress. The word of God can accommodate itself to every season and to every position and to all the circumstances of life. It is never there by force, or unaccountably there; it belongs of right to our whole life. It can be spoken in walking; it can simplify itself so as to suit the position of one who is sitting in his house, quietly and lovingly, in the very centre of the family; when the man lies down, religion will consent to be spoken about in terms and promises of restfulness and recruiting and the sleep which brings youth back with it; and religion is so energetic that when the man rises up a whole man, complete in strength, reinvigorated in every faculty, it can leap forth into every expression of energy and outrun every effort of the mind.
So the answer of Moses is very complete. The word of God is to be in the heart, it is to be taught to children, it is to form the subject of talk, it is to be talked about everywhere. Does the matter end there? Moses has still further field for religious activity. He is delighted to find the words of God in the heart, and to hear them talked in the public assembly, and to hear them spoken about with all the familiar ease of conversation: he is delighted to meet men in the house and on the highway, sitting down, rising up, and still talking about the goodness and the judgment of God; but he will have more: Moses adds, "And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes" ( Deu 6:8 ). There shall be no secret religiousness, no stealthy piety, no profound consecration that wraps around itself garments which are so used by itself as not to involve particularity of devotedness. If the word is in the heart, it must also be written on the hand; if the word is part of the speech, which only a few can hear, it must be as frontlets before the eyes, that observers may note, so that men passing by may be able to say, This man publicly acknowledges, and, perhaps, publicly worships, God.
Does Moses put a full stop here? Moses does not: Moses still finds further space "And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates" ( Deu 6:9 ). Moses would have a broad religion, and would have a broad religion broadly acknowledged. The heart, the tongue, the hands, the eyes, the house, this is most comprehensive. It is, in fact, absolutely inclusive. There is no spot left on which the devil may play his pranks. The heart all Bible, the speech all savour, the hand all consecration, the eyes set in one direction, the posts of the house and the very gates bearing inscriptions of heaven, this was the religious idea and this the religious programme of Moses.
Then comes a great caution: "And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; then beware " ( Deu 6:10-12 ). Moses is growing old, but he is intellectually as astute as ever. It is not his soul that is growing old; it is not the perennial mind that is drying up or withering away. Mark the conception which Moses formed of all advancing civilisation. How much we have that we have not done ourselves! We are born into a world that is already furnished with the library, with the altar, with the Bible. Men born into civilised countries have not to make their own roads.
We are born into the possession of riches. The poorest man in the land is an inheritor of all but infinite wealth, in every department of civilisation. In the very act of complaining of his poverty he is acknowledging his resources. His poverty is only poverty because of its relation to other things which indicate the progress of the ages that went before. Young men come into fortunes they never worked for; we all come into possessions for which our fathers toiled. We could not assemble in God's house in peace and quietness today if the martyrs had not founded the Church upon their very blood. Men today enjoy the liberty for which other men paid their lives. It is ungrateful to forget that every liberty we enjoy, every security we boast, is the result of suffering too poignant to be expressed adequately in words. Coming into a civilisation so ripe and rich, having everything made ready to our hands, the whole system of society telephoned so that we can communicate with distant friends and bring them within hearing, the table loaded with everything which a healthy appetite can desire, all these things constitute a temptation, if not rightly received. Moses drew the picture, and then said "Beware." In the time of prosperity, and fulness, and overflow "then beware lest thou, forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage" ( Deu 6:12 ). Prosperity has its trials. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Poverty may be a spiritual blessing. The impoverishment and punishment of the flesh may be religiously helpful. There are anxieties connected with wealth as well as with poverty. The high and the mighty amongst us have their pains and difficulties as well as the lowliest and weakest members of society. Ever let men hear this word of caution "beware." When the harvest is the best harvest that ever was grown in our fields, then "beware." When health is long-continued and the doctor an unknown stranger in the house, then "beware." When house is added to house and land to land, then "beware." Many men have been ruined through prosperity.
" Frontlets between thine eyes " ( Deu 6:8 ). The practice of using phylacteries was founded on a literal interpretation of that passage where God commands the Hebrews to have the law as a sign on their foreheads, and as frontlets between their eyes. It is probable that the use of phylacteries came in late with other superstitions; but it should be remembered, that our Lord does not censure the Pharisees for wearing them, but for making them broad out of ostentation; and it is still uncertain whether the words referred to ought not to be taken literally. One kind of phylactery was called a frontlet, and was composed of four pieces of parchment, on the first of which was written Exodus 13:1-10 ; on the second, Exodus 13:11-16 ; on the third, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ; and on the fourth, Deuteronomy 11:13-21 . These pieces of parchment, thus inscribed, they enclosed in a piece of tough skin, making a square, on one side of which was placed the Hebrew letter shin ( ש ), and bound them round their foreheads with a thong or riband when they went to the synagogue. Some wore them evening and morning, and others only at the morning prayer.
As the token upon the hand was required, as well as the frontlets between the eyes, the Jews made two rolls of parchment, written in square letters, with an ink made on purpose, and with much care. They were rolled up to a point, and enclosed in a sort of case of black calf-skin. They then were put upon a square bit of the same leather, whence hung a thong of the same, of about a finger in breadth, and about two feet long. These rolls were placed at the bending of the left arm, and after one end of the thong had been made into a little knot in the form of the Hebrew letter yod ( י ), it was wound about the arm in a spiral line, which ended at the top of the middle finger.
Questions and Answers
Questions upon religious subjects will be asked, and we ought to be prepared to answer them in some degree at least. We are not called upon to be irrational that is, without reason even in our Christianity. We did not part with our reason when we were enabled to yield ourselves to the higher inspiration of faith. We ought to be able to say something in reply to inquiries addressed to us concerning the most important portions of our history. We ought, therefore, to be instructed in our own doctrine, and to have some clear conception of the way along which Christian doctrine has passed; and we ought, further, to be able to identify ourselves with that doctrine, and thus give sharpness and clearness to all our religious recitals and arguments. Moses told Israel that questions would be asked. The son would ask of the father the meaning of institutions, statutes, and judgments, and the father was bound to reply to the son's natural and rational inquiry. Such is our position now. Suppose that one wholly uninstructed as to Christian faith and doctrine and practice should ask us, What mean ye? account for yourselves; what are you doing? and why do you act as you do? it would be pitiful to the point of unpardonableness if in presence of such an inquiry we were dumb; our speechlessness would show that our piety is a mere superstition. It is surely, therefore, incumbent upon us to be able to give some reason or explanation for the faith and the hope that are in us. We cannot adopt a better reply than the answer suggested by Moses. No originality of answer is required. The leader of Israel gave the only reply that will stand the test of reason and the wear and tear of time. All we need is in this paragraph.
Adopting this reply, what answer should we make to the kind of inquirer now supposed? We should, first of all, make the answer broadly historical. We are not called to invention, or speculation, or the recital of dreams: we do not want any man's impressions as a basis of rational and universal action; we call for history, facts, realities, points of time that can be identified, and circumstances that can be defined and have a determinate value fixed upon them. We could enlarge the answer which Israel was to give, and ennoble it. We, too, were in a house of bondage. That must be our first point. The house was dark; the life of the prison was intolerable; no morning light penetrated the dungeon; no summer beauty visited the eyes of those who were bound in fetters. Human nature had gone astray. The great cry of the ages was, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;" "There is none righteous, no, not one." The Christian argument starts there. All Christian doctrine is founded upon that one fact, or bears direct and vital relation to it.
We, too, could add with Israel, human nature was divinely delivered. The action began in heaven. No man's arm delivered us; no man's eye could look upon us with pity that was unstained and unenfeebled by sin. God's eye pitied; God's arm was outstretched to save. Great was the compassion of God and tender his love; and every action of his hand, though an action of almightiness, was chastened, softened, mellowed, by an indwelling and overflowing tenderness.
Then we could continue the reply, and say the divine deliverance was attested by many "signs and wonders." Christianity has its miracles corresponding, according to time and speciality of need, to the miracles wrought in Egypt by the Jehovah of Israel. We do not surrender the miracles. Some of them we have seen. As we grow away from them we grow towards them, in their highest and most spiritual meaning. To-day miracles are wrought miracles of the higher sort: an inner vision is opened, the ear of the soul is excited to reverent attention, the whole nature is transformed, changed, lifted up into new relations, and made glad with new and immortal hopes. The temple of God is a temple of miracles. The nature of the miracles may have undergone considerable change, but their inner meaning is an eternal truth: it abides through all the ages, for every purpose of God in the miracles which were wrought was a purpose of life, growth, holiness, transformation into his own image. The purpose is in reality the miracle. That being so, the miracles never cease, for today the Gospel performs nothing less than the miracle of making the dead live, and the blind see, and the dumb speak in new and beauteous eloquence. We, too, had a Deliverer, as Israel had; the name of our Deliverer is Jesus Christ. He was born in Bethlehem; he proclaimed himself the Son of man, the Son of God; he looked upon the whole race with eyes filled with tears; he tasted death for every man; he died the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God; he was crucified, he died and was buried, and on the third day he rose again, and now he is in heaven, our Advocate before the throne; his wounds still upon him as historical marks, but the pain of the wounding is for ever gone. That is our answer in brief and imperfect outline. We, therefore, stand upon this historical ground. Right or wrong, here we are. We did not make the history, we may not modify it, we are not at liberty to introduce any new elements into it; our position is historical: we continue a story, we are chapters added to a great narration. Never part with your history; always go back upon the fact. We are not called upon, as has been said many times, to invent a Bible or to suggest a new form of revelation; we stand upon history, and therefore give a broadly historical reply.
In the next place, still following the idea laid down by Moses, we must make the answer definitely personal: "thou shalt say unto thy son" ( Deu 6:21 ). Speak about yourselves, about your own vital relation to the historical facts. The history is not something outside of you and beyond you: it is part and parcel of your own development, and your development would have been an impossibility apart from the history; let us, therefore, know what this history has done for you. The answer will be poor if it be but a recital of circumstances and occurrences and anecdotes, a vague, although partially reverent, reference to ancient history. The man who speaks must connect himself with the thing which is spoken. Christianity, in its incarnations, is not the recital of a lesson: it is the embodiment and vitalisation of a truth. We may repeat the history all day long, and who will care? But give it personality, show how it bears upon the individual life and the personal witness, include and involve your own integrity in the story which you recite, then the man who hears it has two things to do: not only to disprove the history but to disprove your testimony. Suppose, then, we could speak thus in reply: We perused the history; it seemed strange to us; many a question was excited by the perusal; sometimes our faith was in the ascendant, sometimes doubt seemed to break our wings so that we could not fly heavenward: we fell to the earth enfeebled and distressed; but we returned to the history and considered it deeply; in the first instance we felt our own need of something of the kind; the miracles bewildered us, but when we came to the offer of salvation, when a Man called Jesus stood up before us and said, "I will give you rest" we said within ourselves, Rest is what we need: we are restless; we are killed all the day long; the burden of life is heavy over us, and the accusations of life bear down upon us like a final judgment; then we began to see that perhaps this Man is the very man we needed; we trusted him; we began shamefacedly at first: we were almost afraid to be caught in the company of the Man or listening to his doctrine; but as he advanced we wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; we turned aside and said to one another, He knows us altogether: he has plumbed the depth of our necessity; hear how he speaks! with what wisdom! with what grace! with what sympathy! he will cast none out; now we begin to see a new light shining upon the miracles; we could have doubted them; we could have brought them altogether in one view and written our denial across them; but, becoming familiar with the Miracle-worker himself, getting to know somewhat of his spirit, feeling in some degree the fascination of his sympathy, we were enabled to go farther, and we stood before the Cross: we watched the whole tragedy; and as we looked upon him we said to one another, "Truly this Man was the Son of God;" our reason could not go much further, but a new faculty was called into operation, a faculty called faith trust, confidence, an outleaping of the heart towards outstretched arms; we were enabled to cast ourselves into the arms of Jesus Christ, and having done so rest came into our souls, a sense of pardon made us glad; we entered into the mystery of spiritual peace; then we were stirred towards beneficence of ministry: we became eyes to the blind, and ears to the deaf, and a tongue to the man that was silent; and we followed Christ step by step, doing as he did according to the measure of our power; and now we feel the energy of God in the soul, renewing us every day, drawing us forward by gracious compulsion to nobler life. That is our answer to any man who asks us, What mean ye by this Christian profession and activity?
Thus the answer is, in the first instance, broadly historical a mere outline of facts, the facts being well-nigh innumerable, and so striking in many instances as to be almost incredible. Then the answer is distinctly and definitely personal. We had to deal with the facts, to weigh them and consider their value. We adopted that course, and the outcome of the process was faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a tender, vital clinging to the Saviour's Cross. So far we feel the solidity of our ground. The ground would not have been solid to us if the history had not been personalised, vitalised, adopted by the individual man himself so that he who went through the process of conversion becomes an annotator upon the page of the history, and where there was difficulty before there is light now. The answer is still incomplete. It is broadly historical, and therefore can be searched into by men who care for letters and events and ancient occurrences; the answer is definitely personal, and therefore the character of the witness has to be destroyed before any progress can be made with his particular view of the history; now the answer must, in the third place, be made vitally experimental. The twenty-fifth verse thus defines this conclusion: "And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us." One targum says, "it shall be our merit." The general meaning would seem to be, "it shall be accounted unto us for righteousness:" the attention and the service shall not be disregarded or put down into any secondary place, but what we do in the way of attention and observance and duty and service shall be reckoned unto us as a species of righteousness. What is the meaning to us in our present state of education and our present relations to one another? The meaning is that out of the history and out of the personal relation to that history there will come a quantity which is called character. God is all the while forming character. His object has been to do us "good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day." Without the righteousness where is the history? Without the character what is the value of our personal testimony? We may be speaking from a wrong centre from mental invention, from intellectual imagination, from spiritual impulse, from moral emotion; we may not be standing upon vital facts and spiritual realities. The outcome, then, is righteousness, character, moral manhood, great robustness and strength, and reality of life. The Christian man's history is to himself worthless if it be not sealed by character. The speaker's eloquence is as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal if it be not followed by solid and invincible character not the kind of character that is mechanically arranged, one part being beautifully consistent with another but so beautiful as to be suspicious; it may be a rugged character, but in the centre of it is a burning fire, a desire after God and God's holiness. The character is not a neatly trimmed and dressed arrangement: it is a spirit, a meaning, a high and noble purpose in life; the word is a bond; the outputting of the hand is an oath; an assurance is a pledge that cannot be broken. The man who is thus righteous may die, but will never break his word; he may suffer much, but he will never falter in his testimony; he may be marked by a thousand defects as to action, attitude, and temporary relation, but his soul is alive with God and his life is consecrated to his Saviour. Who adds righteousness to the good-doer? Not himself. If the man made record of his own actions and totalised them into some nameable virtue, his diary and his reckoning would throw suspicion upon his motive. God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love. It is God who imputes righteousness. It is God who says, "Well done, good and faithful servant." It is the Father who says, "Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" make the house thrill with music, for there is a birth in it of manhood and immortality. So, we must have no mongering in virtue, no dealing and tricking and arranging in nice little actions and pat little circumstances, having upon them the bloom of a bastard piety. We must keep up the history, relate ourselves personally to it, turn it into character, and leave God to count the righteousness and to number up our actions and to put a value upon them. Character involves solidity, hope, recompense, reality. A man cannot pretend to character who may lay some little claim to reputation. Reputation is but expressive of appearances, superficial estimates; but character is the man, the man's very soul, the man's very self, without which he would seem to have no existence. So then, there is a doctrine of virtue, a doctrine of works, a doctrine of legal values. The fatal mistake upon our part would be if we set ourselves to its adjustment and determination. We have really nothing to do with it. We begin with duty, we continue with duty; we add nothing to God's Word: we obey it by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; and at last we shall be startled and gladdened by finding that all our life long we have by the grace of God been building up into heaven.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 6". Parker's The People's Bible. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent