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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Deuteronomy 6

Verses 2-4

Deuteronomy 6:2-4

Thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them.

Wars of the Israelites

There is, perhaps, no point on which the weakness of human nature is more clearly shown than in the difficulty of treading the right path between persecution on the one hand, and indifference to evil on the other. For although we are, it may be, disposed according to our several tempers more to one of these faults than to the other, yet I fear it is true also that none of us are free from the danger of falling into them both. If we have today been too violent against the persons of evil men whom we do not like, this is no security against our being tomorrow much too forbearing towards the practices of evil men whom we do like; because we are all apt to respect persons in our judgment and in our feelings; sometimes to be too severe, and sometimes too indulgent, not according to justice, but according to our own likings and dislikings. Nor is it respect of persons only which thus leads us astray, but also our own particular sympathy with, or disgust at particular faults and characters. Even in one whom we may like, on the whole, there may be faults which we may visit too hardly, because they are exactly such as we feel no temptation to commit. And again, in one whom we dislike on the whole, there may, for the same reason, be faults which we tolerate too easily, because they are like our own. There is yet a third cause, and that a very common one, which corrupts our judgment. We may sympathise with such and such faults generally, because we are ourselves inclined to them; but if they happen to be committed against us, and we feel the bad effects of them, then we are apt to judge them in that particular case too harshly. Or again, we may rather dislike a fault in general, but when it is committed on our own side, and to advance our own interests, then in that particular case we are tempted to excuse it too readily. There are these dangers besetting us on the right hand and on the left, as to our treatment of other men’s faults. And in Scripture we find very strong language against the error on either side. A great deal is said against violence, wrath, uncharitableness, harsh judgment of others, and attempting or pretending to work God’s service by our own bad passions, and a great deal is also said against tolerating sin, against defiling ourselves with evil-doers, against preferring our earthly friendships to the will and service of God. Of these latter commands the words of the text furnish us with a most remarkable instance. We see how strong and positive the language is (Deuteronomy 7:2); and the reason is given (Deuteronomy 7:4). It is better that the wicked should be destroyed a hundred times over, yea, destroyed with everlasting destruction, than that they should tempt those who are as yet innocent to join their company. And if we are inclined to think that God dealt hardly with the people of Canaan in commanding them to be so utterly destroyed, let us but think what might have been our fate, and the fate of every other nation under heaven at this hour, had the sword of the Israelites done its work more sparingly. The Israelites fought not for themselves only, but for us. Whatever were the faults of Jephthah or of Samson, never yet were any men engaged in a cause more important to the whole world’s welfare. Their constant warfare kept Israel essentially distinct from the tribes around them, their own law became the dearer to them because they found such unceasing enemies amongst those who hated it. The uncircumcised, who kept not the covenant of God, were forever ranged against those who did keep it. It might follow that the Israelites should thus be accounted the enemies of all mankind, it might be that they were tempted by their very distinctness to despise other nations; still, they did God’s work; still, they preserved unhurt the seed of eternal life, and were the ministers of blessing to all other nations, even though they themselves failed to enjoy it. But still these commands, so forcible, so fearful--to spare none--to destroy the wicked utterly--to show no mercy--are these commands addressed to us now? or what is it which the Lord bids us do? Certainly, He does not bid us shed blood, or destroy the wicked, or put on any hardness of heart which might shut out the charity of Christ’s perfect law. But there is a part of the text which does apply to us now in the letter, thereby teaching us how to apply the whole to ourselves in the spirit. “Be ye not unequally yoked together in marriage with unbelievers. For what concord hath Christ with Belial?” It is, indeed, something shocking to enter into so near and dear a connection as marriage with those who are not the servants of God. It is fearful to think of giving birth to children whose eternal life may be forfeited through the example and influence of him or of her through whom their earthly life was given. But though this be the worst and most dreadful case, still it is not the only one. St. Paul does not only speak against marriage with the unbelievers; he speaks also no less strongly against holding friendly intercourse with those who call themselves Christ’s, yet in their lives deny Him (1 Corinthians 5:11). We need not actually refuse to eat with those whose lives are evil; but woe to us if we do not shrink from any closer intimacy with them; if their society, when we must partake of it, be not painfully endured by us, rather than enjoyed. We may put away from among ourselves that wicked person; put him away, that is, from our confidence, put him away from our esteem; put him altogether away from our sympathy. We are on services wholly different; our masters are God and Mammon; and we cannot be united closely with those to whom our dearest hopes are their worst fears, and to whom that resurrection which, to the true servant of Christ, will be his perfect consummation of bliss, will be but the first dawning of an eternity of shame and misery. (T. Arnold, D. D.)

Destruction of the Canaanites

The extermination of the Canaanites forces itself on the attention of the most careless reader of the Old Testament. We cannot deny that there is a difficulty which needs explanation: we cannot doubt that such a judgment was meant to give to every age a solemn and needful warning.

1. In the first place, it behoves us to understand that this destruction was not a punishment for idolatry. The war of Israel in Canaan did not resemble a crusade. The Canaanites perished, not because they had bowed down to false gods, or refused to worship the true God, but because they had made themselves utterly abominable. This is clear from Leviticus 18:24. The Canaanites perished because the earth could no longer bear them: the safety of the whole demanded their extirpation.

2. We observe, further, that they did not perish without warning. The sites of Sodom and Gomorrah, once like the garden of Eden in loveliness, withered and burnt up by fire from heaven, and at length turned into a bituminous lake, showed the end of those sins by which the land was defiled. It was a memorial not to be forgotten. The Dead Sea was a phenomenon which forced the inquiry, “Wherefore hath God done this?” The forty years’ sojourn in the wilderness was not only fraught with blessing to Israel and instruction to the Church, but it gave to the Canaanites time to consider and repent. It produced this effect on Rahab and on the Gibeonites, who humbled themselves under the hand of God and were spared. The rest of the nations of Canaan heard and feared, but repented not. We may not, then, marvel that the cup of wrath which such habitual and audacious wickedness had filled was deep and deadly. Yet the destruction is not without its parallels. Many modern campaigns have produced a greater loss of life and far intenser misery. The sword appalls us by its fierceness; but it is more merciful than the famine and the pestilence, which in our own days have ravaged large portions of the globe. It cuts short the suspense which is more grievous than death; it inflicts no lingering pain. Besides, this was the only judgment in which idolaters would have seen the hand of the God of Israel. Had they perished in thousands by want or disease they would have attributed this to the displeasure of Moloch or Baal. But they ever regarded battle as the trial of deities. So, when the iron chariots had been broken in the valleys, and the rocky fastness and fenced city had failed to protect the Anakim, all who felt the sword of Israel and all to whom the tidings came were forced to confess that Jehovah was to be feared above all gods. Hence we may see what Israel and all other nations were to learn from these wars in Canaan.

1. They learnt, first, God’s absolute sovereignty, His right and property, in the life of man, and therefore ill everything by and for which man lives. If, then, the Canaanite had no property in his life, nor power to retain it when God demanded it, we dare not claim more than stewardship of anything that we call ours. The largest possessions, the richest intellectual gifts, are less than the life. These, then, are at the disposal of Him who is the Lord of life. If we use them as God’s servants they will secure to us everlasting possessions; but from the unfaithful steward shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.

2. Again, God manifested that man hath something better than life. Our hearts may be harrowed or sickened at the thought that the sword of Israel struck down not only the boastful warrior, but the feeble woman and the blooming child and the infant at the breast. But the same suffering and death of the weak and the graceful and the pure is continually forcing itself on our attention in every epidemic, in public calamities, and in the more frequent casualties of private life, in Indian and Syrian massacres, and even at the birth of Christ Himself, when Rachel was weeping for her children. All this piercing and cutting down of the young and the tender and the promising would be inexplicable if we had not the revelation of a higher life, for which suffering and the contact with suffering are the preparation. (M. Biggs, M. A.)

A noble resolve

Eliza Embert, a young Parisian lady, resolutely discarded a gentleman to whom she was to have been married the next day because he ridiculed religion. Having given him a gentle reproof for some impropriety, he replied that “a man of the world would not be so old-fashioned as to regard God and religion.” Eliza immediately started; but soon recovering herself, said, “From this moment, as I discover you do not respect religion, I cease to be yours.”

The danger of a morally vitiated atmosphere

Some time ago the following strange occurrence happened at St. Cierge, a village in the Jura. The principal room of an inn there, known as the Cerf, was lighted by a hanging petroleum lamp, above which had been placed, for the protection of the ceiling, a metal plate. In course of time the woodwork above the plate became desiccated, and one evening it took fire, and when the innkeeper and his family retired to rest was all aglow--a fact, however, which they do not seem to have noticed. From the ceiling the fire was communicated to the room above, and was first discovered by a neighbour, who, early next morning, observing smoke issuing from the door, gave an alarm, when, as none of the inmates could be aroused, the door was broken open. The fire, having gone on smouldering without bursting into flame, had done little material damage, and was easily extinguished; but all the people in the house--the landlord, his wife and sister--were dead. After the manner of country people, they had firmly closed their windows before going to bed, and the smoke, having no exit, had asphyxiated every one of them. In like manner those who allow a morally vitiated atmosphere to surround them, and willingly inhale its pestiferous fumes, wither and become spiritually suffocated.

The loss of spiritual tone

Animals that live in two elements are awkward in both. Do we find it difficult, even after the most innocent and unexceptionable entertainments, to brace the soul for its devotions? Do not our pinions flap languidly as we attempt our upward flight? And is it not the case that many of the so-called amusements which men pursue are in the last degree unfavourable to those exercises, without a constant application to which the highest zones of religious experience, the snowy summits of a pure spirituality--those glistening peaks that are the first to catch the auroral glow of the rising Sun of Righteousness, and the last to lose His evening beams--cannot be reached and maintained? To spoil a harp, you need not rudely break its strings and batter its sounding-board. Remove it from one temperature to another, and the mischief is done. We cannot say that people are not hurt by these things because they are not made openly and scandalously vicious. I maintain that a man has sustained a dire and irreparable, though a subtle, and at first impalpable injury, when he has lost his spiritual tone. (J. Halsey.)

Verse 4

Deuteronomy 6:4

The Lord our God is one Lord.

Of the unity of God


I.
Why God is called the living God.

1. In opposition to, and to distinguish Him from, dead idols (Psalms 115:4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:9).

2. Because God is the fountain of life, having all life in Himself (John 5:26), and giving life to all things else. All life is in Him and from Him.

(1) Natural life (Acts 17:28; 1 Timothy 6:13).

(2) Spiritual life (Ephesians 2:1).

(3) Eternal life (Colossians 3:4).


II.
Why God is called the true God. To distinguish Him from all false or fictitious gods (1 Thessalonians 1:9). There is a two-fold truth.

1. Of fidelity or faithfulness. Thus God is true--that is, faithful But that is not the truth here meant.

2. A truth of essence, whereby a thing really is, and does not exist in opinion only. The meaning is, that there is a true God, and but one true God.


III.
That there is but one God.

1. The Scripture is very express and pointed on this head (chap. 6:4; Isaiah 44:6; Mar 12:32; 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalms 18:31; Isaiah 46:9; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 8:6).

2. This truth is clear from reason.

(1) There can be but one First Cause, which hath its being of itself, and gave being to all other things, and on which all other things depend, and that is God; for one such is sufficient for the production, preservation, and government of all things; and therefore more are superfluous, for there is no need of them at all.

(2) There can be but one Infinite Being, and therefore there is but one God. Two infinites imply a contradiction.

(3) There can be but one independent Being, and therefore but one God.

(a) There can be but one independent in being; for if there were more gods, either one of them would be the cause and author of being to the rest, and then that one would be the only God; or none of them would be the cause and author of being to the rest, and so none of them would be God, because none of them would be independent, or the fountain of being to all.

(b) There can be but one independent in working. For if there were more independent beings, then in those things wherein they will and act freely they might will and act contrary things, and so oppose and hinder one another; so that, being equal in power, nothing would be done by either of them.

(4) There can be but one omnipotent.

(5) The supposition of a plurality of gods is destructive to all true religion. For if there were more than one God, we would be obliged to worship and serve more than one. But this it is impossible for us to do, as will appear if ye consider what Divine worship and service is. Religious worship and adoration must be performed with the whole man.

(6) If there might be more gods than one, nothing would hinder why there might not be one, or two, or three millions of them. No argument can be brought for a plurality of gods, suppose two or three, but what a man might, by parity of reason, make use of forever so many. Hence it is that when men have once begun to fancy a plurality of gods, they have been endless in such fancies and imaginations. (T. Boston D. D.)

Trinity and unity


I.
The Scriptural Trinity implies that God is One. So far from being against the cardinal truth of God’s unity, it actually assumes it. The Trinity of our faith means a distinction of persons within one common indivisible Divine nature. If we ask, What is the chief spiritual benefit which we derive from the knowledge of the unity of God? the answer is this: The unity of God is the only religious basis for a moral law of perfect and unwavering righteousness. It is a unity of moral character in the Ruler, and therefore of moral rule in the universe. It is such a unity as excludes all conflict within the Divine will, all inconsistency in the Divine law, all feebleness in the Divine administration.


II.
What religious advantages do we reap from the fresh Christian discovery of a Trinity within this unity of the Divine nature?

1. To this question we answer, that the doctrine of the Trinity has heightened and enriched our conception of the nature of God.

2. This doctrine affords a basis for those gracious relations which it has pleased God to sustain towards us in the economy of our salvation. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

One God


I.
The belief in one God gives rest to the active man; it satisfies his intellectual, his moral, his emotional, his spiritual being.


II.
In the field of scientific research this faith inspires us with a confident hope of reducing all phenomena to law, since all proceed from one hand, and express one creative will. This faith supplies that which physical science lacks and yet requires--namely, a prime mover and a sustaining power.


III.
In morals this faith acts most powerfully upon our will, and rouses us to exalt the higher nature and repress the lower. Polytheism deifies the human passions. But if there be only one God, then our highest aspirations must give us the truest image of Him.


IV.
Faith in one God brings peace to the mourner and to the suffering, for we know that He who now sends the trouble is the same God whose kindness we have felt so often. Having learned to love and trust Him, we are able to accept suffering as the chastisement of a Father’s hand. If there were gods many, we could regard the troubles of life only as the spiteful acts of some malevolent deity; we must bribe his fellow gods to oppose him.


V.
Upon one God we are able to concentrate all the powers of the soul, our emotions are not dissipated, our religious efforts are not flittered away upon a pleasing variety of characters, but the image of God is steadily renewed in the soul, and communion with God grows ever closer. (F. R. Chapman.)

The Lord our God


I.
The supremacy of the Lord. The one Being--incomparable, unrivalled.

1. As regards His existence. Alpha and Omega. Uncreated. Independent. From everlasting.

2. As regards His decrees. Consummate wisdom.

3. As regards His operations. Needs no assistance. Makes no mistakes.

4. As regards His faithfulness. The one immutable God.

5. As regards His love. Admits no rival. Has no equal.

6. As regards His claims. The only Being who has a right to our praise, service, love.


II.
The relationship of the Lord. “Our God.”

1. Has made a covenant with us (Exodus 6:4-8; Hebrews 8:6).

2. Has adopted us.

3. Has endowed us. With Himself. His power, wisdom, etc., are all at our service.

4. Has owned the relationship.


III.
The command of the Lord. “Hear, O Israel.” God would have us think much on this two-fold theme--what He is, and what He is to us--

1. To cheek presumption.

2. To stimulate faith.

3. To increase devotedness.

4. To dissipate fears.

5. To impart comfort.

6. To fire love. (R. A. Griffin.)

The one Jehovah

Knowledge as to the fact that there is one God is of high importance to its possessor. In connection with this statement, as to its importance, it may be predicated that evidence has never been adduced to prove that there is more than one God--the one Jehovah. Evidence upon evidence, however, can be adduced to prove that there is one God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the Upholder and Proprietor of all things. In evidence of this, we have only to look around us upon the things that exist; for they all speak of God as the Great First Cause of their existence. For the sake of argument, however, let it be supposed that the proposition is submitted that there are more Gods than one, how could this proposition be supported? How could there be any being equally high with the Highest, or equally excellent with the Most Excellent--two super-superlatives? The idea is not tenable. Not so, however, is it with the idea that there is one God, one Supreme Ruler in the universe; and from whom the universe itself had its origin. This idea has manifold support; and, from among the many evidences that might be adduced in support of it, reference may be made to that unity of design which is manifest throughout all the works of God: as in these works, so far as they can be surveyed by the human mind in present circumstances, this unity, embracing simplicity, testifies to the infinite wisdom and power of a Designer. The extent to which this truth might illustratively be carried out can only be glanced at in present circumstances. New countries, for example, are constantly discovering themselves to the eye of the traveller; and yet, go where he may, he still finds that the old laws of nature, by the appointment of Heaven, come into view. Many new plants may be found on foreign shores; yet all of them indicate the necessity of their continuance to exist in the adhesion of the pollen of the stamens to the gummy stigma of the pistil. Yes; and new animals may be found in different parts of the globe. Whatever their variety, however, they are all maintained by the same earth, cheered by the same sun, invigorated by the same breath, and refreshed by the same moisture. Go where we will the elements act upon each other, the tides uniformly fluctuate; and true to its index is the instrument, when properly adjusted, by which the ship may be steered. Man, too, go where we may, has the same origin, the same general external construction, and the same characteristics by which he is distinguished from creatures of a lower grade. Now whence, or for what purpose, does this uniformity of design exist? The text replies--“The Lord our God is one Lord,” one self-existent, all-wise, and independent Jehovah, and of whose existence and attributes there is incontrovertible evidence, not only in things that exist, but in the unity, simplicity, and harmony of those principles which operate, with marvellous uniformity, throughout every department of the material world. In Him, as thus revealed, we have a God to adore, worthy of our worship, worthy of our confidence, and whose goodness may well captivate with thrilling emotions every affectionate impulse of the soul. But an awful question here comes into my mind. Is this one Jehovah, so plainly revealed, my God? How can I, without arrogant presumption, cherish the thought that I may find acceptance in the sight of Him, compared with whom I am as “nothing; less than nothing, and vanity”? His greatness, and my insignificance; His holiness, and my impurity, seem to repel every ground on which the hope of acceptance with Him would seek to rest. Through what medium, honouring to God, can His favour ever reach this poor heart of mine? How can condescension, in God, to take notice of me, ever accord with His own infinite purity, justice, and dignity? The case transcends my reason: it is too great for me. I am as one utterly out at sea in a frail bark, without a rudder or a hand to guide it. Here, in this labyrinth of perplexity, the great Jehovah might have left me to the guidance of my own mental wanderings till the long night of death had closed over my head. But in great goodness He has not left me thus! With a condescension upon which created intelligence, of itself, never could have reckoned, He has unfolded to me the mystery, that, while there is only one God, there are yet, in the essence of this one God, or Godhead, three distinct personalities--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost--each of them fulfilling a separate department in the economy of human redemption; and that, while thus separate in their gracious manifestations, they are nevertheless one as to undivided essence. The day now begins to dawn somewhat upon my hitherto benighted soul; and though its light be dim amid the darkness through which it comes, there is in it an intimation that, like the dawn of morn, its light shall increase. Be it borne in mind, however, that the revelation indicated is only intended to suit the infancy of our existence in the life that now is; and that while it does not tell us all that in due time we shall be made to know, it tells us all that our present circumstances require. (Thos. Adam.)

The unity of nature proclaims one intelligent Mind

Owing to the imperfection and limitation of our powers, we are obliged to deal with fragments of the universe, and to exaggerate their differences. But the more profound and varied our study of the objects of Nature, the more remarkable do we find their resemblances. And we cannot occupy ourselves with the smallest province of science without speedily becoming sensible of its intercommunication with other provinces. The snowflake leads us to the sun. The study of a lichen or moss becomes a key that opens up the great temple of organic light. If we could understand, as Tennyson profoundly says, what a little flower growing in the crevice of a wayside wall is, root and all, and all in all, we should know what God and man are. And the same unbroken gradation or continuity which we trace throughout all the parts and objects of our own world pervades and embraces the whole physical universe--so far, at least, as our knowledge of it at present extends. By the wonderful discoveries of spectrum analysis, we find the same substances in sun, moon, and stars which compose our own earth. The imagination of the poet is conversant with the whole, and sees truth in universal relation. He attains by insight the goal to which all other knowledge is finding its way step by step. And the Christian poet and philosopher, whose eye has been opened, not partially, by the clay of Nature’s materials, worked upon by human thought so that he sees men as trees walking, but fully and perfectly, by washing in the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, whose pure heart sees God in everything, and in God’s light sees light--he stands at the shining point where all things converge to one. Wherever he turns his inquiring gaze, he finds “shade unperceived so softening into shade, and all so forming one harmonious whole,” that not a link is wanting in the chain which unites and reproduces all, from atom to mountain, from microscopic mass to banyan tree, from monad up to man. And if the unity of the tabernacle proved it to be the work of one designing mind, surely the unity of this greater tabernacle, this vast cosmos, with its myriads of parts and complications, proves it to be no strange jumbling of chance, no incoherent freak of fortuity, but the work of one intelligent Mind having one glorious object in view. (Hugh Macmillan, LL. D.)

The unity of God

1. Here religion and philosophy are in accord. The saints and the scientists alike maintain the unity of God. Authority and reason go thus far together. God must be one; cannot be other than one.

2. The revelation of God is of necessity progressive. All education is progressive, because all knowledge is conditioned by the mind of him who knows. You may take a whole ocean of water, but you can get only two pints of it into a quart cup. The water is conditioned, limited, by the cup. Thus is knowledge conditioned by the mind.

3. The highest truth which the mind can touch is truth about God. The supreme knowledge is knowledge of God. But this, like all other knowledge, is conditioned by the mind of him who knows. God changes not; but year by year in the life of a man, and age by age in the life of the race, the conception of God changes. It is like the ascent of a hill which overhangs a plain. The plain does not change, does not get wider, mile by mile, as the beholder climbs. No, the beholder changes. The higher he gets, the more he sees.

4. Thus religion grew out of belief in God as many, into belief in God as one. Some see a trace of this old change out of the polytheistic into the monotheistic idea of God in the fact that in the beginning of the Bible the Hebrew name of God is plural, while the verb which is written with it is singular. Men began to see that the gods of their imperfect creed were but personifications of the attributes of the one God.

5. It was a hard lesson to learn. It is evident in the Old Testament that faith in the unity of God won its way little by little. The best men held it, but the people in general were slow to believe it. Even in the Psalms, God is often spoken of as the greatest of the gods.

6. All religion, however imperfect and mistaken, is an endeavour after a better knowledge of God. And as men grows they are able to know more--to know more about everything, even about God. God is able to reveal Himself more and more. At first, every tree is a god. Then there is a god of the trees, and then of all the universe and of man included in it. God is known as one.

7. We have not yet learned all the truth of God. We are not universally sure, e.g., that God cares more for deeds than creeds. But we have learned that God is one; we have abandoned polytheism.

8. We believe in God the Father, and we believe in God the Son, and we believe in God the Holy, Ghost. But there is one God, and there is none other. The word “person,” which the old creed-makers used to express these different ideas of God, has given rise to endless confusion. With us a person is an individual. But this word “person” comes into English out of Latin, and in Latin was a blundering translation of a wiser word in Greek. It means “distinction.” There is one God in threefold distinction. The Divine nature is complex as our human nature is. And there are three ways of thinking about God, corresponding to the being of God, ways which are not only true but essential, so that if we are to think of God aright we must think of Him in all these three ways.

(1) God is the source of life, the infinite, the eternal--the Father.

(2) God has manifested Himself to us--so that we may know Him and love Him, and know that He loves us--in the plainest and most universally understood of all possible manifestations, in a human personality; the Word become flesh--the Son.

(3) And God is ever present with us, speaking to all men everywhere, in the past and in the present, teaching, warning, inspiring--the Holy Spirit.

9. Thus the Christian doctrine, taking that old truth that “God is one,” and holding to it, draws new truth out of it. It is an advance upon monotheism, as that was upon polytheism. It meets the longings of the heart. It answers the eager questions of the race. (George Hodges, D. D.)

Verse 5

Deuteronomy 6:5

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.

The love of God

1. This verse is the meeting point of the law and the Gospel. Very wonderful it must have sounded in the ear of Israel. To be bidden, not only or chiefly to fear Him as the God revealed in lightnings and thunderings and voices on Sinai; not only or chiefly to keep themselves from provoking a wrath so awful, a jealousy so sensitive and so terrible; but to love Him, to love Him as the whole of duty, to love Him notwithstanding--nay, partly because of--His incommunicable glory!

2. The words are very strong, very touching: “With all thine heart.” Let the affections, even the emotions, find in God their object and satisfaction. “And with all thy soul.” Let the immortal thing within thee, let the everlasting being which thou art, come out towards this Lord God, and devote itself, in the central life, in the moving will, to Him as its Creator, Owner, Father, Saviour, Comforter. “And with all thy might.” Not with the feeblest, but with the mightiest of all thy faculties of thought and speech and action--with the mightiest of all, at their mightiest, in a devotion of which man is the priest and self the sacrifice.

3. Two things lie on the surface of the text.

(1) The first is, the testimony here borne to God. He asks our love. What an idea must this give of His character! We all know how it draws us towards a man to know that, being active, manly, strong, and supporting many burdens of care, and work, and thought, and responsibility, he also has a warm heart--nay, even is womanly in his tenderness; craves affection; is touched by the response of gratitude; loves love; has even a void place within till love fills it. Does not this raise him in your esteem? The tenderness is the complement of the strength.

(2) And what is this love which God asks of us? It is not different in kind, it differs only in direction, from that which we give one to another. Think what love is, as you give it to your nearest and best beloved. Think of it in its spring in the heart; think of it in its course day by day; think of it as it prompts the word and the act that shall give pleasure; think of it as it makes presence a delight and separation a sorrow; think of it as it wrings from your soul the sob of anguish when you have vexed or wounded or wronged the object of it--and there, in those experiences common to all of us, you have the affection which God Himself here calls love, and which He asks of us.

4. And now reflect upon the mighty consequences and inferences of this demand. See how it deals with life--the life of men, the life of nations--in so far as it is received.

(1) There is a thirst, in all of us, for liberty. Some men idolise liberty; care not if it run to licence; abhor, not tyranny alone, but authority; ask, “Who is Lord over us?” or mingle truth and falsehood, saying, “Even in religion there can be no obligation.” See in this text how God offers liberty. He bids us love. He would make us free by one great Abolition Act. He would strike off the fetters of religion itself.

(2) There is another cry of the age--and that is, equality. An impatience of differences; an obliteration of distinctions, clamoured for on the one side--on the other, half-yielded, half-resisted, selfishness resisting--vanity, whether the vanity which would discern, or the vanity which would lead, or the vanity which would please this echoing the cry and yielding. This is one cry of equality. Another is the impatience of God in equalities--those, I mean, which He keeps in His own power: differences of constitution, of fortune, or circumstance; differences which make one man prosperous and another unsuccessful, etc. Now we see how the offer of God’s love bears upon all these things. If all may have this--and if nothing but this can satisfy, endure, give peace, or survive death--where is inequality? Where, in a moment or two will it be?

(3) It is needless, yet delightful, to record, in harmony with the last reflection, the operation of this love of God upon the unity of the human brotherhood. Philanthropists, as well as revolutionists, talk much of fraternity. Christians know that brotherhood hangs upon falsehood; that only they who love from the heart “Him that begat” will ever love from the heart “the begotten of Him.” (Dean Vaughan.)

The great commandment of Moses and Christ recommended to Jews and Christians


I.
I am to consider the nature and excellency of that temper of mind which you are to exercise towards the Jehovah of Israel. If you are men and have the feelings of humanity, I need not explain to you what love is. Without it, the names of father, son, brother, friend, and every charity of life, are vanity and a lie. But, though I refer to your hearts for the feeling of the temper we speak of, yet remember that as it varies in purity, in strength, and tenderness towards our connections on earth, so will it differ much more when exercised towards the Lord our God. The love of God is founded in just apprehensions of His character. The very idea of God should contain in it all possible perfection in an infinite degree. There is no weakness in Him that thou shouldest despise Him and cast off His fear. He hath not burdened thee; that thou shouldest be weary of His service. He hath not wronged thee, that thou shouldest hate Him and break His commandments. The love of God is also founded on a due sense of His mercies. He hath given us life, and breath, and all things; and in Him we live, move, and have our being. He is perfectly good in Himself, and perfectly good to us, and to love Him with all our heart and to serve Him with all our strength is our rational service. If we do not, the very stones will cry out against our ingratitude, and evil, as well as good, angels will condemn us when we are judged. Consider how honourable this temper of love is to the blessed God, and to His happy worshippers. It exhibits Him in the lovely and confidential character of the Universal Father, the Father of mercies, and the God of all hope and of all consolations. It sheds the oil of gladness on all the springs and wheels of duty, and makes His service perfect freedom. For love is liberal in its gifts, unwearied in its services; it casts out tormenting fear, and indulges no suspicion in the unlimited confidence it reposes on the God of our salvation. Finally, it is a principle of universal obedience to all God’s commandments, to all men, at all times, and under all circumstances. Love is the ruling affection of every soul of man, and, though false to every other principle, to this he will be ever true, as the needle to the pole. For where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also; and if the love of God exist in the soul, it will regulate and subject to itself every other principle. If we reject this Divine principle, how shall we supply its place? Faith itself is unprofitable but as it worketh by love. Obedience is a lifeless form of godliness but as it is animated by the spirit of love.


II.
The measure of that temper you are commanded to exercise towards the Lord your God: “Thou shalt love Him with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.” The love so strongly marked is of no ordinary character. It is pure, grateful, strong, affectionate, fervent, and reverent; specifically different from all earthly affection. As the light of the sun darkeneth all other lights, so doth the love of God absorb other principles. It requires us cheerfully to recognise Jehovah as Father of our spirits, the God of our lives, and the Lord of our possessions: as entitled to dispose of us, of our wives, our children, our fortunes, our time, our talents, our reputation, and our influence, when and how He pleaseth. Nor is this requisition unreasonable or unrighteous. For we, and all we have, are His. He loveth us better than we love ourselves. He is wise, under every circumstance of life and death, to know what is best for us, in this world and in the next; and His power is able to effect all His goodness shall prompt and His wisdom shall contrive. In the absolute surrender of ourselves to Him lieth all our honour, our happiness, and our security. What greater honour, then, O ye Jews, can Christians show to the venerable Moses than to make this precept regulate every secret of their souls? This may appear wonderful, and it would be so, indeed, were Christianity opposed to Judaism. But, in truth, they are one and the same religion, as the light of the dawn is the same as the light of the day, as the rough outline is the same as the living picture, finished by the same great Master. It was to establish the law of love, as well as to atone for sin and to procure the Holy Spirit, that our Immanuel sealed His love to God and man on the altar of His Cross. We love Him because He so loved us, and His love constraineth us to love His enemies and ours.


III.
Apply the subject to Jews and Christians. And, first, I address myself to both. Do you love Jehovah your God with all your heart? That is, better than you love the world and all that is in it? Better than life itself? if any man think he love God, how doth he prove the fact? “If ye love Me, saith God, “keep My commandments.” “This is the love of God,” saith the true worshipper, “that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous.” Ye Jews, ye must be circumcised with the circumcision not made with hands, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; whose praise is not of man, but of God. Ye Christians, ye must be born again, not of water, but of the Spirit. Hearken, O men of Israel. Had your fathers believed Moses, they would have believed Christ. Had they loved God, they would have received Him who came forth from God. (Melville Home.)

On love to God

In this publication of His law God clothes Himself with this title, “The Lord thy God”--


I.
With reference to His gracious, external interpositions in behalf of that people.


II.
To intimate the gracious tendency of this seemingly severe revelation.


III.
And its connection with the offer and communication of God according to the method of His grace. But there are two inferences falsely made from this preface which ought to be avoided.

1. That an assured apprehension of God, as ours, is the beginning of religion, and that this must go before all beneficial knowledge of God and His law, whereas there must be a spiritual knowledge of God and His law in the order of nature necessarily antecedent to any such apprehension of God, otherwise we have no just ideas of Him whom we apprehend (but embrace an idol), nor of the footing on which we do apprehend Him.

2. That, after reconciliation with God, a man hath nothing to do with His law.

To overturn such fancies it is to be observed that the doctrine of the law of God is to be learned--

1. In subserviency to the glorification of God by the exercise of justifying faith in Jesus Christ.

2. For the government of one who is justified in walking towards heaven. It is chiefly in order to the first of those uses, to awaken men to flee to Christ, that I mean to speak at this time from the text. There are no Christians on earth exempted from the necessity of exciting themselves to faith in this way, unless there are Christians whose faith needs not to be increased or exercised.


I.
I am to open the sources of the obligation of the law of God as they are exhibited in this expression of the text, “The Lord our God is one Lord.” Two preliminary observations may here be mentioned.

(1) That the grounds of the obligation of the law of God upon intelligent creatures are of an unsearchable and incomprehensible nature. I mean not that it is impossible for us to have a sufficient knowledge of this matter. If this were the case, it would be vain to say anything on this subject. But I mean that, after the greatest progress in such resources, faith must be maintained as to the immensity of the glory of God as surpassing all knowledge.

(2) That there is in us an exceeding great strength of spiritual darkness or blindness in this matter. They only who have a deep and tender sense of these two things, their own blindness and the mysterious sublimity of these subjects, have such a humility of mind as is suitable to such inquiries.

1. It appears from the text that the chief source of the obligation of the law of God must be searched for and found in God Himself.

(1) It is evident, from the nature of the demands of the law of God, that they cannot be justified, unless on supposition of there being such things in the nature and character of God as do of themselves entitle Him to such service.

(2) The certainty of this truth concerning the origin of the obligation of the law of God appears from the consideration of the penalty annexed to the violation of this law.

(3) Every other argument enforcing the law of God derives its chief force from its connection with this primary source of moral obligation. Because I am created a reasonable being I am bound to love God. But whence is it that my reasonable nature is a precious benefit? Is it not because hereby I am capable of the sight and enjoyment of God in His infinite beauty? In this view the benefit of creation may be said to be infinite.

(4) This is expressly adduced in the Scripture as the foundation of the authority of the law of God. So, in the preceding chapter, “I am the Lord thy God.” The first and radical idea is, “I am Jehovah.” I am what I am.

(5) Obligations to obedience from consideration of Divine judgments and mercies are expressly resolved into this when the knowledge of God’s being what He is is spoken of as the issue of these things, as is manifest (Ezekiel 28:22-26).

2. It appears from the text that the sources of the obligation of the law of God are to be found in those excellences of the Godhead which are most peculiar and distinguishing. Here it is to be considered that the excellences of God are justly distinguished into those which are called communicable and those which are called incommunicable. With respect to both these sorts of excellency He is incomparable. As to those which are called communicable excellences, because some degree of something like them is imparted to other beings, God is distinguished from His creatures by the degree and manner in which He possesses these excellences. But the most distinguishing quality of the manner in which God possesses communicable perfections is their being united with His incommunicable glories. It is by these last that God is chiefly distinguished from other beings, that He hath an immense fulness of such kinds of beauty as in no degree can be found in any created being.

3. It may also be inferred from the text that the obligation of the law of God is primarily derived from those excellences of the Godhead which chiefly constitute the harmony of all Divine excellences, or the bond of union, in consequence of which all the fulness of the Godhead is one whole. “The Lord our God is one Lord”--that is, in the midst of the immense variety of excellences which are found in Him, there is a marvellous unity and harmony, so that there is no division, jarring, or separation, but one glorious whole, in which all things are compacted.

4. The source of the obligation of the law of God lies in that one essence which is equally and fully possessed by each of the three persons in the Godhead.

Application:

1. Beware of despising these truths as abstruse and unintelligible.

2. I call and invite every one of you to employ Jesus Christ, the Prophet of the Church, to instruct you savingly in these things.

3. Let those who have been called into the light attend to these exhortations (1 Peter 2:1-3; 1 Peter 2:8-9; 1 Peter 2:11-12).


II.
To give a general explication of the nature of that love to God which is demanded and prescribed in His law. Here the following preliminary remarks are to be attended to:

1. That we are now to speak of the love of God not as it is found in saints on earth, mingled with contrary corruptions, but as it is prescribed in the law of God, and as it is found in such creatures as are perfectly conformed thereto.

2. It is difficult for us to attain just and lively conceptions of the nature of this perfect love, because we never had any experience of it--no, not for a moment.

3. Such a knowledge of it is attainable as is sufficient to answer the purposes of the glory of God which are intended to be answered in this life, such as to excite high thoughts of the glorious excellences of God as appearing in His law, to discover the preciousness of the righteousness of Christ, the imperfection of our present attainments, the necessity of progress, and the amiableness of that state of perfection which is the “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

4. Our thoughts may be assisted and elevated on this subject by considering the highest attainments of Christians on earth, and adding perfection of purity and continuance thereto.

I shall now apply myself to the direct consideration of this most fundamental subject, namely, “What is that perfection of love to God prescribed in His holy law?”

1. What are those views and character of God in which He is contemplated while perfect love is exercised?

(1) I observe that God in the whole of His character, so far as in any degree revealed to the creature, is the object of perfect love. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all--no spots or blemishes, nothing to allay or abate the splendour of His amiableness. “He is altogether lovely.”

(2) More particularly He is so in His incommunicable fulness of excellence, beauty, and perfection.

(3) In His communicable perfections. Whatever amiableness is found in the creation, so far as is consistent with infinite perfection, is found in God in a Divine manner.

(4) As He is the author of all that is good in the creation.

(5) As He is the last end of all, for the sake of whose glory all things exist and all events happen.

(6) As He is the benefactor, lover, and judge of intelligent, created beings.

(7) As He is the enemy and avenger of evil.

(8) As He is the supporter and recompenser of good.

(9) In His unknown, hidden, and unsearchable fulness, which is implicitly loved.

2. The different motions of the faculties of the soul in bringing forth the actings of this love may be represented in this order.

(1) The first principle of spiritual motion being the will, or the soul, as choosing and inclining itself towards what is suitable to its taste and inclination, so in this perfect love there is a Divine instinct and disposition of the will by which the whole soul is turned towards God.

(2) Hereby the faculties of the understanding are stirred up to inquire after God.

(3) There is a disposition to faith concerning what God is, before the soul sensibly sees Him.

(4) And to seek and take in that marvellous light by which He is sensibly discovered.

(5) Then the will, having, by means of the understanding, found its object, embraces it, and rests in it in such actings as are afterwards to be mentioned.

(6) Then the understanding is stilted up to go forward in taking in more of God, and this awakens new actings of the will, and these, again, new exertions of the understanding.

3. In the course of these motions of the faculties of a perfect creature, the various acts of love in their distinct kinds and in their connection with each other are brought forth.

(1) Esteem, which is the accounting a thing valuable, excellent, precious.

(2) Desire, as to present enjoyment and the securing endless possession, and hence valuing the intimations of Divine love, etc.

(3) Delight, complacency, rest.

(4) Zeal; delighting in the honour of God. Benevolence.

(5) Self-denial; preferring the interest of God to ourselves. Disposition to suffer for Him.

(6) Undervaluing the whole creation in comparison of Him.

(7) Loving the creation in subordination to Him. Thus the creation is first thrust away; and then embraced.

(8) Gratitude for the person’s self and others.

(9) Disposition to acts of worship and beneficence, in which this love appears clothed with its fruit.

Application:

1. Give glory to God, the author of this law.

2. See the greatness of our fall from a state of perfect, uninterrupted love to a state of enmity.

3. See the preciousness of that redemption by which men are restored to a state of perfect, endless conformity to this spotless standard. (John Love, D. D.)

Supreme love of God


I.
The command.

1. None will dispute for a moment God’s right to the affection of all His creatures. Surrounded as we are by the amazing proofs of God’s love to us, hourly as we are the recipients of His bounty, it is to the lasting disgrace of every member of the human family that such a command as this should be needed.

2. But will the mere command produce love? No, it will not. The severest injunctions, the most formidable threatenings, are insufficient to produce love in the human heart. The penalties attached to disobedience may excite a slavish fear, but they cannot excite love. A child does not love its parent because commanded to do so; it may obey that parent by the outward act, but to excite love something more is needed than a command. And that something more is found in the affectionate kindness and watchful care of the parent, and this it is which, shown in a thousand varied ways, calls forth the love and affection of the child. If I want my neighbour to love me, it is not by merely expressing the wish for it that I shall gain his affection, but by embracing every opportunity for the exercise of benevolent feelings towards him. And thus it is that the love of God will be awakened within the heart of any one of us. And therefore, in exhorting you to obey the command, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” we should set before you those dealings of God towards you which are calculated to kindle in your breasts the emotions of love.


II.
Its extent. What is the degree of love which God demands?

1. It must be supreme--with all the heart. You are to love God not as you love your friends, your relatives, your children, but above, all things. He will allow no rival to share with Him the throne of your heart’s affections. Not even any lawful affection must be set above that which we give to God, much less the love of sin or of the world.

2. It must be an intelligent love--with all the soul or understanding. By this you will have a clear perception of why you love God, and of the many motives which should excite you to give Him your heart’s undivided affections. The thoughtful Christian will see the reasonableness of the adoration he pays to God.

3. It must be also a strong and fervent love--“with all thy might”--a love deeply rooted in the heart, and so closely intertwined with all your thoughts and feelings as to defy the power either of sin or Satan to tear it from your breast. (R. Allen, M. A.)

On God’s love of being loved

One of the loudest outcries of present-day scepticism against Christianity is that it is based on an anthropomorphic or too manlike view of the nature of God, which is said to be degrading to the Unseen Everlasting Cause and to be contrary to scientific fact. Now clearly there must be some limits to thinking of God as “such an one as ourselves.” When men have, for example, represented the Divine nature by fabricating and consecrating an image of the human body, as in the case of the whole idolatrous world; or when they have conceived of the Divine character in the moral likeness of wicked men, as in the case of nearly all the gods and goddesses of paganism, there is reason in the outcry of these sceptics and in the demand for loftier and purer ideas of the Deity. But where objection is made to the formation of ideas of the Divine nature based on any similarity to man’s nature, or to ideas of the Divine providence based on our notions of great and small--as if so small a world as this and so minute a creature as man were unworthy of the special attention of an Infinite Being--then the objection is in fact founded on another kind of anthropomorphism or too much manlikeness--an error which is at least as vulgar as that which it condemns, and then the basis of so-called scientific unbelief is open to the same accusation which it brings against the Christian faith. For, of all indefensible notions, this must be the most indefeasible--that the Infinite Being measures the value of objects in proportion to their size. Does any man really believe that if there be a God at all who is an intelligent Being, even if He were only as intelligent as a man may be, that He values things elderly according to their cubic contents, so that what you call a “little” world has no chance of the notice of the Everlasting Mind? Everything that we know here of mind leads us to conclude very differently. Men do not value each other chiefly according to their size, or anything else, when they are educated into some right perception. The noblest nations have not inhabited the largest territories. It is not the largest buildings, the largest works of art which are of the highest value. We may be certain, then, to begin with, that suns and planets do not rank in the Creative Mind according to their cubic contents. He who made man in His own image of reason and love cannot possibly account man unworthy of notice because of his littleness. Nothing is too great for the Mightiest One, and nothing is too minute for His care. But now comes for consideration the deeper question of the nature of God, as capable or incapable of real feeling towards man--as caring or not caring for our affection--so as to be fitted to win our love to Him, a personal and everlasting love. Nothing is clearer in the Sacred Writings than that they all alike represent God not only as essential Love, but as asking for our love, and delighting in it, as the love of His children, to whom He has given all things. God’s love of being loved is, perhaps, the foremost quality of the Divine Nature as described to us in revelation. Consider how strange it would be if God were not such a Being as this--if the Creator of all sensitive souls were the One Spirit devoid of real sense and feeling. Oh, surely this great world of sense and feeling was born out of a nature all sentient and vital, and rose like some form of beauty from a wondrous ocean of Deity, full of the life whence she sprang. Consider, too, what an effort seems to be made in the physical world to convey to our minds on all sides the impression that there is real and personal feeling towards man in the Most High. Does not every living form in plant or flower, every delicious landscape, or breadth of ocean, lighted with the radiance of the morning or the evening sun, breathe forth to us the feeling of some unseen, but not far distant, and Omnipotent Artist, who loves His children? But it is true that our sense affords no sufficing revelation to the soul. She cries out still for the Living God. We require a richer, fuller, nearer communion, and we have it in Christ. In Jesus Christ the Infinite is revealed, not only as a Person, but as one “full of compassion.” And now we are more ready for the reception of the truth that, if “God is Love,” it follows that next to the satisfaction of His own Almighty love in blessing His creatures, and saving the lost by His own sacrifice, that Nature must seek for its sweetest delights in the love of His children. And this is the revealed but too often forgotten fact that God loves to be loved . . . When, then, of old, God spake by Moses, “Thou shalt love, etc., this was not the terrible and menacing demand of a Potentate requiring love as a debt, and threatening its non-payment with perdition. But it was Eternal Love crying out for the love of a world of revolted souls, and determined not to rest until it conquered the rebellion by the sacrifice of itself. But what that union of souls with God will be in eternity, in the embrace which no created power can unlock, and which the Uncreated never will, no earthly tongue can tell. The infant spirit will have grown up to its adult and angelic strength and the faint answering smile of its earlier days shall have passed into the effulgent sunlight of an intelligent and immortal passion--a love forever strengthening in the experience of the Love Divine, and thrilling the Infinite Nature with the gladness that the saved alone can give it, because they alone love with the ardour kindled by redeeming grace. (E. White.)

God must be loved

A man is not a Christian because he is socially loving and kind any more than a person is a good son because he loves his brothers and sisters, leaving out his father and mother. Men would not wish to be treated by their children as they propose to treat their Father in heaven. They would not be satisfied to have their sons and daughters act on the principle that to love each other is the sufficient and only way by which children ought to love their parents. I should not like to hear my children say, “To be kind to each other, and not care for father and mother, is the way for us to be good children towards them.” (H. W. Beecher.)

The service of the heart

All men know, or think they know, what love is. The poets have sung its praises, and the philosophers have analysed it, and the moralists have assigned it a niche, under one name or another, among their virtues; but all have alike regarded it as too irrational, too capricious, too transitory a thing to be an adequate foundation for morality. Christianity alone has made love at once the guide and goal of life, the condition of perfection, the fulfilling of the law. The principle of love is universal, without being abstract, it is a fact, a plain, obvious, palpable reality, which all men agree to recognise, and to recognise as ultimate and fundamental. Its analogues are broadcast throughout the universe, from the laws of gravitation upwards. It is universal, it is real, and further, it is vital. It is its own dynamic. It lives and grows and expands and fructifies, and sows its fiery contagion broadcast with an importunate, an imperious necessity of its own inner nature, which admits of neither help nor hindrance from without. The command, therefore, to love appeals to an instinct which is co-extensive with humanity, which is real beyond touch of controversy, and endowed with a vital force that is exclusively its own. But the very instinctive nature of love often misleads men into many other fallacies, owes its plausibility to its containing half a truth. Love is indeed irresistible; many waters cannot quench it. But like other irresistible forces--the lapse of a river, the electric energy, the current of a flame--it can be guided, and by guidance be controlled. “Learning to love” is too deep-set a phrase in our language ever to have arisen, if the act which it describes were after all impossible. And love, like the instincts in a being that is rational, not only can be, but must be, directed by the will, as the sole condition of attaining its true end. To assist us to that end let us look at love as we find it among men. In the first place, love is a relation existing between persons. The will need not have for its field of exercise more than a law, nor the mind more than an abstract object; but it is only in a derived and secondary sense that we can speak of loving anything other than a person. We may love him for the possession of this or that attribute of loveliness; but it is the self behind the attributes--the person--that we love. And then, though we cannot analyse this mysterious element of our being, we may see one thing about it clearly, that it moves between two poles--desire and sacrifice. The family, the earliest home of love, shows both these elements in their simplest form. The love of the child for the parent is one of simple, unreflective, self-referent desire; that of the parent for the child one of increasingly unselfish sacrifice. Both factors, of course, coexist, but in each case one predominates, and gives character and colour to the whole. To love is to be lifted or degraded by our love, in proportion as we repudiate or welcome the law of sacrifice. The forms which that sacrifice may take are infinite, but the fact of it needs no proof. Love, then, as we know it, is a relation between persons, founded on desire, tending to self-sacrifice, needing for its true development the guidance of the will. And further, it is never stationary. It withers unless it grows, and in growing gathers purity, intensity, perfection. This is the faculty which we are bidden to enlist wholly in God’s service: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” How is this to be done? Different forms of personal beauty, different graces of mind or character, wake the love of different men. But once let a man be confronted by the congenial character, the appropriate grace, and nature does the rest. So with the love of God. He attracts us through many avenues. Our part is to direct our mental vision by the will; and then

“We needs must love the highest when we see it.”

But it is in this direction of our vision that we fail. Our eyes are feeble, and we cannot bear the light. “He left not Himself without witness,” but we interpret it amiss. The simplest of all witnesses is our natural desire for God. “All men yearn for the gods,” said the Greek. “My soul is athirst for God,” said the Hebrew poet. In spite of such utterances, a century ago philosophers could still maintain that religion was artificial. But in the light of our larger knowledge this is no longer possible. For however far we look back over India, or Babylon, or Egypt, or abroad over the savage inmates of the islands of the sea, the religious instinct is there; not merely a fear, or a sense of infinitude, but a yearning, a desire, the beginning of a love. So universally is it found to be part of our primitive endowments, that zoologists have proposed, for their special purpose, to classify mankind as “the religious animal.” This desire is the foundation of all our love. Our capacity for loving God and our capacity for loving man are one and the self-same thing. Or to put it otherwise, we have an infinite capacity for loving, which points to an Infinite Being as its only final object. Limit your love exclusively to any finite thing or person, and what is the result, and why? Sooner or later it will begin to flag; it will fail; it will become disgust; and that because you have thought to limit what never can be limited. We are all of us endowed, then, with an emotional capacity, whose final cause is the love of God. And every phase of human emotion should be, and may be if we will, a stage in the training of this faculty for its destined end and goal. There is, for instance, the love of nature--of the beauty of earth and sea and sky, and of all the various life with which they teem. Contemplate nature, and its loveliness will strengthen and develop your emotions, but in doing so will point them on, with irresistible suggestiveness, to One lovelier than itself. And then there is the love of art. Art selects and rearranges nature, with a view to bring its lessons more intimately home. Our duty is to use all art that will kindle our emotions nobly, but sternly to forego, oven in what may seem the neutral region of amusement, all that is insidiously poisonous to us, and yet may innocently brighten and help the lives of other men. This fact needs insisting on; for artistic influences elude observation, and we are hardly aware of how profoundly painting, music, drama, poetry, and the immense literature of fiction mould and modify for good or evil every fibre of our modern life. Again, there is the love of humanity, the most universal of all schools of love. In the early dawn of affection we idealise our dear ones with an instinctive insight that is in truth prophetic of what they may one day be. But hero and now they are finite beings--weak, sinful, incomplete. Differences of taste and temper, inadequacies, imperfections, cannot but disclose themselves, as time goes on. But if our love he true, we shall learn to efface our selfishness in helping other lives to overcome their insufficiencies; and every sacrifice this costs us will deepen our power of sympathy; we shall feel not only for the grace and beauty, but for all the pathetic frailty of the struggling human soul; and as we learn, by loving more profoundly, the limitless nature of our love, we shall see that its only adequate satisfaction is in God--“Nor man nor nature satisfies whom God alone created.” There is one more school of affection; but we can only learn its lessons if we come to it, at least in sonic degree, prepared; for it is the school of bereavement. To the idolater of nature, or of art, or of humanity, we know what the shattering of his idol means--hopeless, helpless, impotent despair; weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And yet it was not meant to be, it never need be, so. If once we have risen to realise that what we love on earth can have derived its loveliness from no other source than God, bereavement, however bitter, is full of earnest meaning. Our concern is with the fact that bereavement reveals to us new and mysterious vistas in the life of love. All along we have seen that sacrifice of one kind or other must be present. But bereavement shows us how intensely real that sacrifice must be. All else seems to vanish before it; and the very name of love acquires an awfulness which makes its light misuse seem blasphemy. Such are the common means by which we may learn to fulfil the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” The genius can dispense with the ordinary methods of education; and so too can the saint; but for most of us it is otherwise. The things that lie around us, the stuff that life is made of, the field of our daily exercise--nature, art, society, marriage, friendship, partings, death--these are the appointed channels that should guide the heart to God. Our mistake is to think such things indifferent, as if there were a neutral region, neither good nor ill. Nothing is indifferent, except to our blindness. Every object of human interest lifts us up or drags us down. (J. R. Illingworth, M. A.)

Love of God the best basis of life

There was once a great painter who had three scholars. They were all anxious to learn the secret of their master’s power, and become great painters themselves. The first spent all his time in the studio at his easel. He copied incessantly the great master’s pictures, studying deeply into their beauties, and trying to imitate them with his own brush. He was up early, and was the last to leave the workroom at night. He would have nothing to do with the master himself, attended none of his lectures, never went to him with any question, nor spent any time in talking with him. He wanted to be his own director, and make his own discoveries, and be self-made. This scholar lived and died without notice, and never expressed on canvas a single one of the noble characteristics of his master. The second scholar, on the contrary, spent little time in the studio, scarcely soiled his palette, or wore out a brush. He attended every lecture on art, was constantly asking questions about the theories of perspective, of colouring, of light and shade, of grouping figures, and all that, and was a zealous student of hooks. But for all his study he died without producing a single worthy picture to help and delight mankind and perpetuate his master’s glory. The third was as zealous in the practical work of the artist as the first, and as zealous in the theoretical as the second, but he did one thing which they never thought of doing: he came to know and love the master. They were much together, the young artist and the older one, and they had long talks about all phases of an artist’s life and work. So close and continual, in fact, was their communion that they grew to talk alike, and think alike, and even, some said, to look alike. And it was not long before they began to paint alike, and on the canvas of the younger glowed the same beauty and the same majesty that shone from the canvas of his master. The parable is not hard to interpret. If the Christian has been seeking to know God, and express God’s beauty on the canvas of his human life, it has been in one of these three ways. If it has been by the way of practical living merely, by attempting with one’s own unaided wisdom and power to be kind and helpful and influential, the attempt has failed. If it has been by the way of theory merely, if by searching of books alone the Christian has sought to find out God, he has failed. Our search for a noble and inspiring and fruitful basis of life will succeed only as, without by any means neglecting good deeds or study, we seek with all the might of the spirit God has given us for communion, personal love and communion, with the Spirit who made our spirits, until, in Jesus’ words, we are one with Christ, even as He is one with the Father.

How to begin to love God

It will not be so difficult for you to love God if you will only begin by loving goodness, which is God’s likeness, and the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit. For you will be like a man who has long admired a beautiful picture of someone whom he does not know, and at last meets the person for whom the picture was meant--and, behold, the living face is a thousand times more fair and noble than the painted one. You will be like a child which has been brought up from its birth in a room into which the sun never shone, and then goes out for the first time, and sees the sun in all his splendour bathing the earth with glory. If that child has loved to watch the dim, narrow rays of light which shone into his dark room, what will he not feel at the sight of that sun from which all those rays had come! Just so will they feel who, having loved goodness for its own sake, and loved their neighbours for the sake of what little goodness is in them, have their eyes opened at last to see all goodness, without flaw or failing, bound or end, in the character of God, which He has shown forth in Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the likeness of His Father’s glory, and the express image of His Person, to whom be glory and honour forever.

Our obligation to love God

If a great potentate did make subject unto thee his whole kingdom and all his dominions, nobles, and strong, powerful men, nay, all his subjects, and did command them to guard, defend, preserve, to clothe, cure, and feed thee, and to take care that thou shouldest want nothing at all, wouldst thou not love him and account him to be a loving, bountiful lord? How, then, oughtest thou to love the Lord thy God, who hath kept nothing back for Himself, but appointed to thy service all that is in heaven, and from heaven, and all that is upon earth, or anywhere? For He wants no creature for Himself, and hath excepted nothing from thy service, neither in all the hosts of holy angels, nor in any of His creatures under the stars. If we will, they are ready to serve us; nay, hell itself must serve us, by bringing upon us fear and terror, that we may not sin. (John Arndt.)

Why we ought to love God

1. We ought to love God. It is our duty to love God. We are commanded to love God. The Old Testament and the New Testament unite in emphasising that. It is not likely, however, that this text ever persuaded anybody into loving God. Love laughs at injunctions, pays no heed to duty, absolutely cannot be commanded. Obedience can be got that way, but love--never! It is of the very nature and essence of love that it must grow in a willing heart. Love is the manifestation of an untrammelled choice.

2. It may be that God set temptation within the reach of man, that He might thus make it possible for us really to love Him. The test of love is preference. Love comes out into the light, and is discovered when there is a choice to be made between two, or for or against. The best way in the whole world for a man to show his love for God is to say “no” to the devil, and to stand up on the side of God. But we must not do that because we are commanded to do it, because we are afraid not to do it, but because we want to do it, if there is to be any real love in it.

3. The purpose of this command is not to establish obedience, but to proclaim an ideal. The spirit of it is not that we must love God because we must, but that God wants us to love Him. “We love Him because He first loved us.”

4. Christ is the only authoritative teacher of the love of God.

(1) He taught God’s love for man in the blessed words that He spoke. He looked up to the great God and called Him, and taught us to call Him, by that loving name “Father.”

(2) His life, even more than His words, was a revelation of God. God is like Christ, and it is not hard to love Christ. How can anybody help loving Christ? And whoever loves Christ, loves God.

(3) He taught the love of God for us in the death that He died. We wonder if pain and love can really go together, and behold! here they are together at the Cross of Jesus. (George Hodges, D. D.)

Love for God a real motive power

It is said that one of the greatest statesmen that we have ever had, having gone to hear an evangelical preacher, was heard growling as he left the church, “Why, the man said that we were to love God,” evidently thinking that the very height of unreasonableness. And when Wilberforce attacked the fashion of religion in the beginning of the nineteenth century, this was the point on which he fixed--that not only was God not loved, but people did not even think that to love God was reasonable. Going to work philosophically, he demonstrated, first, that what he called passion--meaning love--is the strongest force ill human affairs; and secondly, that religion requires exactly such a stimulus, because of the difficulties that it has to overcome. We are now living in a far warmer atmosphere everywhere than that in which Wilberforce was living, and we have no difficulty in acknowledging the power of emotion, or passion, or love in any department of human affairs. In politics, it is enthusiasm that carries the statesman through. In war, it is enthusiasm that makes heroes. It was the passion of friendship that made Jonathan able to lay a kingdom at David’s feet. Love between the sexes is the grand mainspring of human refinement and industry, and affection in the home sweetens adversity, and enables even the weak to bear up under intolerable burdens. But, my people, there is one kind of love for which the human heart was made which is deeper and more influential than any other kind, and that is the love of God. I daresay that you and I would claim that we had tasted the other kinds of love, perhaps all the kinds, and we know well their power of developing energy and rewarding endeavour, and sweetening what is bitter in life; but let me press this question home on you--do we know the highest love of all? has this blossom burst yet on the tree of our being--love to our Father in heaven? It is to be what we call an absorbing, an overmastering love, pervading the whole being, and setting every power within us in motion. If the love of God be in us anything like the absorbing and over-mastering passion that Jesus means it to be it will lead us also to love everything belonging to God--His day, His house, His people, His call, and so forth; and wherever there is any deep love for the Sabbath, or the Bible, you will find when you come to the bottom of it, that it is due to love of God Himself, wakened in the heart in the way that I have indicated. But there is especially one part of worship) which Jesus connects very closely with the love of God, and that is prayer. You know those who love must meet: The oftener they meet the higher rises the flame of love, and prayer is the trysting place between God and the soul. (J. Stalker, D. D.)

Verses 6-9

Deuteronomy 6:6-9

These words . . . shall be in thine heart.

The Scriptures to be laid to heart, and diligently taught


I.
The words concerning which the command is given, their nature and importance.

1. Their supernatural origin.

2. The extraordinary manner in which God has sanctioned them, in the signs and wonders performed by those who spoke or wrote the things declared in them.

3. The evident excellence and useful tendency of their contents, “to make us wise unto salvation.”


II.
The command given concerning these things.

1. We must not be indifferent, but deeply impressed with, and concerned about, these things; that is, about Divine revelation in general, its truth, its importance, its contents; and about that religion set forth in this passage, as above explained, consisting in the knowledge and love of God.

2. We must see that this is religion, and this alone; and that if we rest short of this, we rest short of religion.

3. We must be concerned to have proper views of, to experience, and to practise this religion.


III.
The obligations which lie upon us to obey this command.

1. Gratitude; for this book lays us under great, yea, infinite obligations. Consider what would have been our condition had we not had the Bible--how ignorant, sinful, and miserable!

2. The express command of God, who gave us the Scriptures, lays us under an indispensable obligation: He is our Creator, Benefactor, Redeemer, Lawgiver, and Judge. He solemnly enjoins us to have these things in our hearts.

3. The example of our Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles, etc., who all made these things the subjects of their chief study and discourse from day to day.

4. Compassion for and love to our children--mortal and immortal beings; to whom, under God, we have given being, and who are committed to our care by Him, the great proprietor and governor of all, who says, “All souls are Mine.”

5. Our own interest should influence us; and that for time and for eternity. For if we have not God’s Word in general, and the knowledge and love of God in particular, in our own hearts, we shall be miserable here, and perish everlastingly hereafter. And if we do not inculcate these things on our children and dependants, and those on whom we might inculcate them, and they perish, God will require “their blood,” their souls, at our hands. (J. Benson.)

An ever-present religion


I.
Religion claims to take a foremost place in human affairs. The law is to be everywhere set forth clear and conspicuous. As the ancient Egyptians are said to have worn jewels on the forehead and arm inscribed with sacred words and amulets, and as the Mohammedans now paint over their doors sentences from the Koran, such as “God is the Creator,” “God is one, and Mahomet is His prophet,” so the Jews carried on their bodies, and wrote upon their houses, some of the most important passages of their law. Such a practice was liable to the abuse of ostentatious vanity. But are not we in danger of falling into the opposite fault through the intense reserve in which we hide our religious life? When we do recognise the right of religion to take its true place in the world, what shall we dare to set before it? This right is based on two grounds:

1. The essential value of the subjects treated by it.

2. The authority which it carries. Our religion must not be a mere matter of taste, of sentiment, and of philosophic speculation. It must be regarded as obedience to the will of our supreme Lord and Master.


II.
Religion needs to be constantly impressed upon us. We do not have to set up maxims about our streets urging us to make haste to get rich, nor in our houses to prevent us from forgetting our daily meals. But the spiritual appetite is less keen, and requires to be whetted by constant teaching, by “line upon line” and “precept upon precept.”


III.
Religion must begin in the heart. It is impossible to have religion in the outer life unless it grow from within. Nothing is easier than to put on the show of it. Anyone can hang texts about his house. But to infuse real religion into the home is impossible except it grow out of inward spiritual devotion. The fruit cannot grow without a root. To be in the heart the Divine Word must be--

(1) In the understanding, not merely heard of in meaningless words, nor practised in mechanical acts, but intelligently realised.

(2) In the memory, not read for a moment and forgotten as soon as the book is closed, but carried in the mind, its sacred truths haunting the thoughts.

(3) In the affections, not coldly contemplated, but lovingly cherished. To this end we must seek the aid of God’s Holy Spirit to enable us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His truth.


IV.
Religion should grow out into every branch of life. Though it begins in the heart it cannot contain itself there forever; if the fountain is ever bubbling up it must issue in the flowing stream. When there is life in the root it is impossible to prevent the tree from breaking out into leaves, sooner or later. Like the sunlight pervading hill and plain, like the fragrant odour of incense penetrating to the inmost recess of the sanctuary, true religion must spread itself abroad, and reach down to the minutest details of life. (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

Words in the heart

1. The style of the Book of Deuteronomy is unlike that of the preceding books of the Pentateuch, and this may be accounted for by the fact that the contents are very different. The language of Deuteronomy is in the main hortatory.

2. The lawgiver is seen in this book to be full of zeal for God, and of earnest desire for the well-being of the people. His exhortations to obedience have been truly said to be “deeply fraught with holy and patriotic feeling.”

3. There is something of a valedictory tone throughout these pages. The forty years’ wanderings are almost concluded, and the death of Moses is near at hand. Moses, giving injunctions to Israel before his departure, is typical to the final commands of Jesus Christ before His Ascension.


I.
The words were to be in their heart.

1. What words? The commandments of God, as summed up in the verses which precede the text. Having first asserted the truth that “God is a Spirit,” for the people were reminded, when the Lord spake unto them out of the midst of the fire, that they “heard a voice, but saw no similitude” (Deuteronomy 4:12); so now, the Unity of the Godhead is clearly revealed: “The Lord our God is one Lord.” Further, Moses drew from the doctrine of the Divine Unity that God must be the sole Object of Israel’s love and obedience--of a devotion which claimed “all” the heart and soul and might for its rightful exercise.

2. These words were to be in their heart, or “upon” their heart, as something written and engraven upon the memory. This faculty was to be the treasure house of the Law of God. Constantly in Holy Scripture exhortations and institutions had for their object the prevention of forgetfulness of the Divine Law and Divine mercies: “My son, forget not My Law,” (Proverbs 3:1). The Sabbath was a reminder of Creation; the Passover, of the deliverance from Egypt; and twelve stones were set up for a memorial of the passing over Jordan. To remember the presence of God and the commandments of God and His goodness was a stringent duty, for these were to form the guide of life and the stimulus of devotion.

3. To forget God was a sin in itself. “Beware lest thou forget the Lord,” the prophet continues, especially in days of affluence and prosperity in Canaan. It was Moses’ reproach--almost his dying reproach: “Of the Rock that begat thee, thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee” (Deuteronomy 32:18). And forgetfulness of God leads to all sin.


II.
“Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.”

1. There never was a time when this Divine command needed more to be accentuated than at present. Secular education is only partial education; it omits to train the moral and spiritual, the higher elements of our being. It has been wisely said by a French statesman, “Strong, definite, religious convictions constitute the real strength of any country.” He might have added, “of any soul.”

2. Religious instruction of the young is necessary, because God commanded it. That is a clear and definite ground to go upon, for all who believe the Scriptures. Further, it stands to reason that if religion is to be our guide in the midst of a sinful world, we want that guide for all ages. Childhood as well as maturity belongs to God, and must be sanctified by God. The image of the Child Christ, with the words, “Hear ye Him,” placed by Dean Colet over the master’s chair in St. Paul’s Grammar School, was his way of showing the importance of religious education, and of teaching children that they should follow Christ and be made like unto Him, if they would become true men and women.

3. Moreover, youth is the time when powers are fresh, and the truths which God has revealed can be best taken in and assimilated. “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). It is the time for acquiring deep convictions and of forming habits (Proverbs 22:6).

4. Youth is an age when we are more liable to be led astray by passion and the first taste of the world; and therefore the restraining and blessed influences of religion are the more necessary.


III.
Lessons.

1. To strive to remember the Divine commands and the presence of God.

2. “In the heart.” Not merely an intellectual action, as “learning by heart,” though this is important; but by loving obedience to God, and devotion to Him.

3. To teach religion to thy children. A ground for forcing the importance of religious instruction in our schools, and that definite. The text says, “these words.”

4. But further, a lesson for parents, upon whom the task devolves, that in the home, as well as at the school, the children should be instructed in the truths of Christianity, as the most momentous of parental duties. (Canon Hutchings, M. A.)

The duties and privileges of pious parents


I.
The duties of believing parents.

1. Love to God is the first and great duty of every moral being. Without this there can be good neither in the individual nor in his life and actions.

2. The Word of God should be the object of constant and unremitting study. This is a work for life.

3. The Word of God should dwell in the heart of the believer richly; and at all times, and in all places, it ought to be the chief employment of his mind. This leads to saving knowledge of God and of His will; and this, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, will make the believer “wise unto salvation,” and, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, will do so likewise unto his children.

4. We should make the Word of God known to others--such as our friends, our associates, our neighbours, and that, too, as extensively as possible. Thus the believer is kept constantly in communion with God by love, and by the Scriptures; and thus he becomes more and more conformed to God’s image every day.

5. But the believer should make known the Word of God to the world as far as possible, by recommending it, and by circulating it, as far as possible, amongst his necessitous fellow creatures.


II.
The privileges of pious persons.

1. They are great gainers themselves; for, by “loving the Lord their God with all their heart,” they have the experience of heaven begun in their soul: all is life, power, readiness, willingness, and ability to do the whole will of God--and heaven just consists of this in perfection. This gives satisfaction; this gives “joy and peace in believing.”

2. They are great gainers, because their whole intellectual powers are satisfied with Divine influences: their understanding is satisfied with knowledge of the Divine nature, the Divine perfections, the Divine persons, the Divine will, the Divine promises, the Divine blessings, and the Divine word.

3. They are great gainers, because the whole man, soul and body, with the members, powers, and faculties, are dedicated to God, and are employed in His service and enjoyment. This is employment for the real Christian both in this world and the next.

All Christians should daily be thus occupied, for this is answering the end of their creation.

1. But another unspeakable privilege is comprehended in our text, and that is, “These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.” This is to be conformed to the Divine image; this is to be like the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Another unspeakable privilege is comprehended in our text, and that is, the instruction and edification of children.

3. This privilege is extensive, and may embrace not only the children, but also the servants, and all others connected with the family, by consanguinity, friendship, or otherwise.

4. The believer’s privilege extends to all men, as far as in his power. Thus, the circle extends from the point--self--round the circumference of the globe! How exalted the consideration of being instrumental in the hand of God, of being so extensively useful in increasing the Church on earth, and the Church in heaven--of profiting the souls and bodies of men--of promoting the glory of God both in time and through eternity! (James Kidd, D. D.)

Familiarity with the Word of God


I.
The words of God are the treasure of the heart. Wherever they be, if they are not in the heart they fail to answer the Divine intention. They are made for the heart, and the heart is made for them. Let them be there first, and it will follow that they will be everywhere else where they are needed.


II.
The words of God are the theme of the conversation. There is a picturesque completeness in the enumeration of the occasions upon which these words are to be talked of--at home, abroad, evening, and morning. Though His words in origin, they are our words in use.


III.
The words of God are the ornament of the life. The Jews adorned their persons with texts of Scripture, written upon papyrus or parchment, and enclosed within little boxes or cylinders, which were worn upon the hand or the brow: an emblem of their intimacy and familiarity with Divine truth, and to us a reminder that our life, our politics, our literature, our art, should all be governed by the principles and motives presented in revelation.


IV.
The words of God are the law of the home and household. Scraps of Scripture were suspended by the threshold of the house surely to intimate that in a sense every Israelite’s home was a temple sacred unto the Lord. Our households are protected, and guided, and hallowed, when the Divine Word is their supreme authority.


V.
The words of God are the inheritance of our children. Whatever parents fail to do for their offspring, to bequeath to them, let them, above all things, hand down to them the precious and sacred deposit of truth, teaching diligently unto their children what they themselves have received from those who have gone before them. (Homilist.)

The Bible not too good to be used

Some years ago I had occasion to send a parcel to an honest, hardworking bricklayer who lived in the country. It contained, besides sundry little presents for his wife and children, a trowel for his own use, made in a superior way, with a mahogany handle; and often did I fancy that I saw him hard at work with the trowel in his hand. Last summer, being in the neighbourhood, I called at the cottage of the honest bricklayer, when, to my surprise, I saw the trowel which I had sent him exhibited over the chimney-piece as a curiosity. It had been considered too good to use, and consequently had never been of the slightest use to its owner. (George Mogridge.)

Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.

On the religious instruction of children


I.
To mention some of those things which parents are commanded to teach their children.

1. In the first place, then, inculcate upon them an early reverence for God. Teach them this duty even before they can understand who and what He is; and let them see it exemplified in yourselves, by your seriousness in speaking of Him, and by your humility in every act of Divine worship.

2. Teach them also an early value for the Scriptures. Let them know that the Bible is the Word of God; that it is the best book in the world; that it is more to be desired than gold; and that, if it were not for the discoveries, instructions, and promises contained in it, they and you, and all mankind, would be ignorant and wretched beyond imagination.

3. Let them also acquire an early sense of a future state, blest children are giddy and thoughtless. The trifling engagements of the present hour are all that they regard; and it often happens that the world with its baubles strikes so strongly upon their imaginations, and fixes such an early and rooted prejudice in its favour as is not easily eradicated. You should, therefore, endeavour to convince them, as soon as possible, that the present state is only a passage to another.

4. Forget not to inculcate upon them an early love to our Lord Jesus Christ. Take the first opportunity to inform them of their obligations to Him; and let them know that if they have any comfort in this world, or any hopes as to a future, they owe it all to the kindness of the blessed Redeemer.

5. Habituate your children to the early practice of prayer.


II.
To suggest some directions to parents in this important and difficult work.

1. Take care, then, to he well instructed yourselves.

2. Begin with them very early.

3. Continue your instructions with diligence and perseverance.

4. It is also of great importance that you maintain a proper authority.

5. I would further advise you to accommodate yourselves to their tempers and capacities.

6. Be concerned especially to set them a good example; walk before them in the way in which you would have them go; and show them, by your practice, that you by no means require impossibilities. Let them see in you the amiableness and advantages of self-government and universal piety.

7. Sanctify all by your prayers.


III.
The encouragements which parents have to teach their children diligently. Nature and grace, reason and religion urge this strongly.

1. It will be a good evidence of your own sincerity.

2. It is also the best proof of love to your children. It should encourage you in the discharge of this duty to consider that it is the best means of promoting the glory of God and the revival of decaying religion.

3. These pious efforts will also comfort you on the death of your children.

4. That an attention to the spiritual welfare of your children will afford you unspeakable consolation in the hour of your death.


IV.
To obviate some of the most common and material objections against this important and necessary duty. Various are the excuses that are made; but they are generally dictated by indolence, rather than by real conviction. Some object their want of ability. “We would gladly instruct our children,” you say, “but we are ignorant ourselves. Ministers are the fittest persons to undertake it, for it is a part of their office.” If your ignorance be real and not merely a pretence to silence conscience, if you really do not know the plain principles of religion, it is high time for you to learn. Had you your own souls only to attend to, it were a shame to continue unacquainted with the glad tidings of salvation. But if you only mean that you know not how to communicate that little knowledge which you have to your children; that you cannot talk to them so pertinently and fluently as others; I answer that not strength of genius, but a willing mind is required; and if you once undertake it, you will find your abilities increase by exercise. Others object their want of time. But while you have sabbaths you surely cannot plead want of time for the neglect of your duty. Remember that you must all find time to die. Let me beseech you to attend to this duty, which will contribute greatly to make your deathbed easy. Others, again, object their want of success. But do you expect to pass through the world without difficulties and discouragements? You have met with disappointments in your worldly business, and yet yon did not presently give it up in despair. It is more than probable that your want of success may be traced to some guilty defect in yourselves. But if you have been never so diligent and faithful, and with little apparent success, persevere notwithstanding. The last thing you say to them may reach their hearts. The last effort which you make may be successful. You will, at least, “deliver your own souls”; and you will have the testimony of a good conscience. (S. Lavington.)

The importance of scriptural education

The truth that the Word of God is God’s instrumentality for reforming and saving man, is the foundation of our present argument for the religious education of our children. We would enlarge the mind, elevate the character, and ennoble the nature of our children; we would lift them up above the mere degradation of working animals; we would ennoble them so as to give them a capacity for intellectual enjoyment and rational happiness; we would wish to make them not only loyal and faithful subjects of their earthly sovereign, but devout servants of the King of kings; we would endeavour to cheer them amidst the privations and agonies of poverty they are frequently called to endure, with a view of the glorious hopes that are created in us by the Christianity of the Scriptures; and it is because we desire this that we would give them a Christian education. We live in times when thrones are utterly shaken to pieces, when sceptres are shivered to atoms; a moral earthquake is heaving the foundations of society. In times like these we may well turn our thoughts to the right instruction of our children; in times like these, when the freedom of the press has been proclaimed, when all men seem to be speculating as to the best means of securing national prosperity and individual happiness; in times like these, fraught with incalculable evil, as well as with immeasurable good; in times like these, so peculiar, so startling, we may well apply ourselves to the imparting of the sound principles of true religion to our children, that so those who are now the youth of our land may grow up to be a rightly-instructed as well as holy people. We have seen in that nation which hath, in a century gone by, flung aside the law of God and lightly regarded the Word of Jehovah, judgment following judgment, in revolution following revolution. Truly there is a judgment from heaven upon that nation that will not acknowledge God, and who lightly esteem the Word of God. But if we would express ourselves thus strongly of the neglect of the Word of God in education, we would also express ourselves strongly in reference to the blessedness of the country where that Word is honoured by being employed in the education of the people. Education without religion is education without God, and therefore education without the blessing of God; and if we, in the education we impart to our children, mingle the truths of our holy religion with everything, we shall draw down a blessing upon our homes and happiness upon our hearts; we shall be blessed in our mountains and in our valleys, and the whole land will be glad and rejoice in the presence of God. (M. H. Seymour, M. A.)

Family training


I.
When the family has been constituted in accordance with God’s natural laws, parents may have encouragement that all the laws of nature are working in their favour. Like produces like. This tendency may be modified, and in extreme cases overruled, by antagonistic laws; nevertheless, this is the course that is provided for. And, with a single exception here and there, children, comprehensively regarded, tend to become what their parents were, and their parents. They represent their ancestry. And this is as true morally as in feature, in intellect, or in any ordinary disposition. Nothing shows more strikingly the power of blood and this great law than the recuperative power of different kinds of men when they have fallen into evil. Anybody can fall into evil. The difference between one man and another is not in their slipping into the river, but in their extricating themselves when they have once slipped in. Everybody’s child may fall into temptation through inexperience; but, after having fallen into temptation, it is not everybody’s child that can recover himself. The child of parents that have the resiliency of a moral constitution will be apt to recover himself; whereas, the child of parents that have no such resiliency will be apt to go from bad to worse, clear down to the desolating end.


II.
While this general tendency should encourage us, it may also inspire hopefulness, in special cases and difficulties.

1. Many of the infelicities of our children spring more from our ignorance than from any evil that is in them. Your child has in many respects just the same tendencies that you have. Yet we treat our children almost as if we were not to bear their burdens, to be conscious of their tastes of mind, and to administer according to their wants.

2. Many dangerous traits in childhood, that would be exceedingly discouraging if they were to hold on, will disappear in later life, and that too by the force of natural causes. Children, you know, have to run through certain diseases of the body. So they do of the mind. There are times when children will lie. There are periods when children will steal. There seems to be mumps of obstinacy, and rash of irritability, and measles of lying--and there are no measles half so bad as those. And many parents, seeing these early indications, reason upon them in this way: “How could this child do that thing? Why, as far back as I can remember, I did not do it.” How is it with your husband? Suppose he says: “Though I never consciously told a lie, my child lies inveterately; and what will become of it?” I will tell you what will become of it. If the child has a tendency to this perversion, it will require all your care, both of personal instruction and institutional training, to keep his childhood from developing into a manhood of deceit. But if you are careful to train the child aright, just as quick as the whole of its nature is developed, one part will take care of other parts, and help other parts.

3. Many of the deficiencies of children, and of the difficulties of managing them, arise from the fact that the stimulating nature of society and civilisation in our day develop the child prematurely, and that he cannot be held properly until the forces of life are concentrated upon him. If you want your children to behave, you must give them something to do. Society is the training ground of the human race. It is a school of practice, where God means that men shall be disciplined. Your child must go into that society and that life; and if you have brought him up right, he may now and then swerve from the right course, but the probabilities are that he will come out right in the end.

4. Many of the faults of children are only the rude forms of excellences that are not yet ripened. I should be very sorry to have a man judge of my Duchess pears by tasting them now, in July. I should hate to have a man judge of my Delaware grapes by tasting them now. They are sour enough. But a great many parents taste their children’s qualities when they are children; and, because they do not taste good, they are very much alarmed. There are many things to be done before a man is ripened. There is much juice to be changed and elaborated in the child before it can be brought to its normal rendition.

5. Let me speak of one or two of those qualities which secure our children, and which are very few and very simple.

(1) Bring up your children in the habit of openness of conduct and truthfulness.

(2) The next element is self-respect, or the habit of acting, not from what others may think, nor from what may be the consequences to yourself of profit or loss; but from a sense of what is befitting to you--in other words, making a man’s own self more important to him than all external considerations.

(3) The other element is conscience. Truthfulness, honour, and conscience--train for these three qualities. Talk with your children about them. Interpret them to them by your conduct. Now, if you bring your children up with these three traits, you have the soil, and you can raise anything you please on that soil. (H. W. Beecher.)

Children taught Christian truths

Children should be taught the principles which they understand not.

1. That they might have occasion much to think of the things that are so much and commonly urged.

2. That if any extremity should come, they might have certain seeds of comfort and direction to guide and support them.

3. That their condemnation might be more just, if having these so much in their mouths, they should not get something of them into their hearts. (J. Trapp.)

On the religious and moral education of the young


I.
In what the young should be instructed.

1. It is the duty of parents to teach them to form just sentiments of the Deity. Just views of the perfections and character of God are necessary to all acceptable worship; they elevate the intellectual and moral faculties, and excite in the heart many pleasing emotions.

2. The young should be instructed in the statements of Scripture respecting the fall and the ruin of man.

3. The young must be instructed in the mission and character of the Redeemer, and in the regards which they owe to Him.

4. There are certain qualities which you ought to cultivate in the young, by setting before them their necessity and their importance. Teach them reverence for things sacred. The name of God demands their fear. Teach them to venerate the Word of God. Show them how “He hath magnified it above all His name,” by the bright impressions of a Divine origin which He hath impressed on it, by the important purposes which He accomplishes by it, and by appointing it to be the rule of judgment when the quick and the dead shall be summoned to meet the Lord in the clouds. Children should be taught to respect the worship of God. Suffer them not to be absent from your family devotions without a real necessity; and beware of performing these in that hurried, careless, or languid manner which will induce them to think lightly of domestic worship. Children should also be taught to venerate the wise and the good, and to consider the Christian virtues as constituting the noblest respectability. The saints may be depressed by poverty, and scorned by those whose respect is attracted only by the titles and the wealth of this world, but they are the excellent of the earth. Inculcate the reverence which is due to the Divine government of the world, and which will maintain faith and patience till calamitous times are past, and preserve from that wantonness and insolence in prosperity by which the goodness of God is so often abused. Mercy is another quality which you should labour to cultivate in the hearts of the young. To impress the lessons of mercy on the heart, some have wisely recommended it to parents, to make children their instruments in dealing their alms to the poor, and in giving instruction to the neglected. The books which you put into the hands of your children, should be such as are adapted to cherish benevolence. Sobriety is another quality which you ought to cultivate in the young. I mean not to intimate that you should labour to repress the sprightliness of childhood and the vivacity of youth, or to recommend a mean, sordid, and gloomy temper. There are gaieties in which they should be indulged, and to debar them from these is to make them detest religion, and count a father’s house, where all is morose and cheerless, no better than a prison. But while you allow them to rejoice in their youth, check all merriment that is unseasonable, unbecoming their characters, or excessive in degree. They must be taught to keep their appetites and passions under the control of reason, and to shun every pleasure which may be dangerous to innocence. Justice is another quality which must be cultivated in the young. Children often discover an impatient desire to possess whatever strikes their fancy: but in this they ought not to be gratified. Children must also be taught to maintain a strict regard for truth. Lying, in children, often arises from vanity and envy, from a wish to aggrandise themselves, and to depreciate the merits of others. To guard them against this practice they should be told how disgraceful it is deemed by men, and how odious it is in the sight of God; that what is gained by lying is but a poor compensation for the dread of detection, and for the infamy which it brings; that the liar forfeits all the confidence of the world; that this is the character of the devil, that he is the father of lies; and that none who love or make falsehoods shall be permitted to enter the heavenly city.

5. Children must be taught to look up to the Holy Spirit for light, grace, and comfort. There are many things mysterious both in the nature and manner of the Spirit’s operations; but you can find statements in Scripture sufficiently plain to enable you to teach them what they may derive from Him. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the doctrines of Christ; and you must assure them that it is He alone who can exhibit Divine truth in its glory and power, and that without His illumination no instructions of yours, or of the holiest and wisest teachers, can impart to them saving knowledge. He is also a Spirit of Holiness; and you must teach them that the qualities which they ought to cultivate must be implanted by Him, and that whatever semblances of these may be exhibited by unrenewed men, are produced by no sound principle, influenced by no proper motive, and are devoid of all stability. You must likewise explain to them that He is the Comforter whom Christ sends to cheer His disciples amidst all their sorrows; and that by His influence martyrs have gloried in tribulation, and the righteous hope in their death. To Him they must look for support in every afflicting incident; and you may assure them that the pious heart shall find Him ready to relieve, when other comforters are silent, and other friends are no more.

6. The young should be led to serious views of death, judgment, and eternity. Lead their views to the heavenly world, where the good are forever happy in their Father’s house, and in a land where sin, and sorrow, and death are unknown; where they are employed in the everlasting celebration of their Redeemer’s love; where His image sheds over them the perfection of beauty; where there is social intercourse without jealousy or rivalship, perpetual worship without languor, and pleasures that never lose their relish.


II.
The manner in which that instruction should be communicated and enforced.

1. The instructions which you communicate must flow from the heart. Unless you feel a love of the truth, and a zealous concern to impart it, your lessons will be delivered in a manner so cold that your children will hear them with no interest. They easily discern, when you speak from conviction and feeling. Instructions which are marked by parental affection and pious solicitude will awe the giddiest into attention, and soften the most stubborn.

2. The lessons of religion and morality should be taught with diligence. Much attention will be requisite to find out the evil principles which are most likely to influence your children, and the quarter in which they are most vulnerable by temptation; and when you are aware of these, you must labour to mortify their corrupt propensities, and to guard what is most exposed to danger.

3. The young must be instructed frequently. In walking with them on the highway or through the fields there are many objects which call your attention to these lessons; and in teaching them to contemplate the scenes of nature in the spirit of devotion, you will cherish in them a relish for the purest pleasures, and open to them a source of unfailing entertainment during the whole of life. Your duty requires many of you to leave your dwellings early in the morning, yet go not forth till you have given, if it is possible, a serious counsel to the young. It may work in their minds during your absence, and will probably suggest such a thought as this, “My father’s heart must be strongly set on my being wise and good, since he can never leave me without urging me to it.” In the evening, ere you retire to rest, forget not to ask how they have spent the day, and what improvement they have made since you left them. The idea of such an inquiry will be a powerful incitement to the diligence of your children. On the morning of the Lord’s day your instructions should commence as early as possible. Improve every incident that happens in the family, or in the neighbourhood, to enforce religious instruction. I shall only state further on this topic this short maxim, “Let instruction be your daily task, and it will be your daily pleasure.”

4. Instruction should be communicated in a familiar manner. Your ideas must be expressed in simple language, and illustrated from objects with which they are acquainted.

5. Your instructions must be enforced by a suitable example. Piety appears most venerable in a father’s devotion, and love to Christ most delightful in a mother’s praise. Nowhere does integrity seem so noble as in a father’s abhorrence of all that is base and deceitful; nor charity so lovely as in a mother’s sympathy with the mourner. Nowhere does patience appear more amiable than in their silence while in agony; nor faith more triumphant than in the support which it gives them in their last struggle, and in their last farewell.

6. Prayer to God must accompany all your instructions. You must pray that your children may be enlightened by the spirit of wisdom; that their tempers may be softened by the grace of meekness; that their hearts may be sanctified by the washing of regeneration; that their education may be blessed by the care of heaven, and their lives adorned with the fruits of holiness. Let these prayers be sometimes put up before them. In such a situation the young will be led to such reflections as these, “Can I continue an enemy to that God whose mercy a parent is now imploring for me? Can I cherish these evil propensities, the destruction of which he now supplicates? Shall I despise those graces which he entreats the Father of goodness to work in me? or turn away my ear from that law which he wishes may be written on my heart?”


III.
Some motives.

1. Let parents consider that the vows of God are upon them. When your children were baptized you acknowledged that it was your duty to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and solemnly engaged before God and His Church to perform it. And can your conscience permit you to be inattentive to the best interests of the children of your vows?

2. Consider the examples which are set before you to direct and encourage you in this duty (Genesis 18:19; Psalms 34:11).

3. Consider how much the success and the happiness of your children in life depend on your early care. Nothing is so likely to secure success in any business or profession, as industry and sobriety, justice and truth. And you know how much happiness depends on the state of the mind, and on the nature of the habits. Evil passions will make the heart wretched in the midst of honours and abundance, while piety and contentment will keep the soul in peace in every affliction. Habits of fickleness and indolence, precipitance and indecision, will involve men in perplexities, losses, and disgrace. By the counsels of religion, you secure for them a companion and a monitor, who will abide with them when you depart to the Father, and who will talk with them when you are silent in the grave.

4. I appeal to your regard to the Church, and to your country. Can you bear the thought that the institutions which you delighted to support will be deserted by your children?

5. I may plead with you from the regard which you feel for your own credit and happiness. Impious, profligate, and thriftless children will be the bitterest of your sorrows. On the other hand, virtuous children are the honour of their parents. There is no friend on whom the old man can lean with such pleasure as on the son in whom the kind affections are strengthened by Christian principle; and nowhere is the aching head so easy as on the pillow which filial piety has smoothed.

6. The common neglect of this duty should excite you to perform it.

7. Think on the efforts which are now made to corrupt the rising generation. If the lessons of religion are not taught, vice and folly will seize on the unoccupied mind, and acquire an influence there which no future exertions may be able to subdue.

8. Consider what comfort the discharge of your duty will yield you in the death of children.


IV.
Reflections and exhortations.

1. What a blessing, to the young has the Bible been! Happy are the families which dwell under its shadow.

2. Let parents lay up in their memories the counsels and motives which they have heard. Listen to no suggestions that would detach you from your duty.

3. Let little children be thankful to God if they have parents who teach them the good ways of the Lord. Endeavour, by your meekness and docility, to render their duty more and more pleasing.

4. Let the young, whose parents are still continued with them, beware of imagining, that because they are now near to manhood they are above their counsels. Solicit their advice in your perplexities, and open your hearts to them in your sorrows. Give them the satisfaction of seeing in your temper and conduct the fruit of their early toils; and let them have reason to say that, so far from disappointing them, you are wiser and better than they hoped. (H. Belfrage.)

Religious education

What is the true idea in the religious instruction of the young? It is that they have in them a moral and spiritual nature to be unfolded, or, in other words, an original capacity for religious thought, feeling, faith, and affection. It is indeed a great idea, to be realised only by a long and arduous process, carrying the soul not only far away from, but infinitely above, its original rudimental state, where the powers of good and evil, as yet unstirred, slumber together. To the negative care of not hurting the child must be added the positive, of helping him according to his great, pressing want. We need not fear to lay a vigorous hand upon his spirit in prosecuting this work. For that spirit is not the already delicately shaped, perfect excellence some suppose, like beautiful frostwork, which a breath may mar; or frail porcelain, exquisitely fashioned, which is easily shattered; but an undeveloped ability to fear and love and serve God, which we are by all means, and with all our might, to stimulate and bring forth. It is a work of difficulty. As the apostle says “First is that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual.” Leaving out extraordinary eases of those, on the one hand, apparently sanctified from birth with singular tenderness of conscience and nobleness of feeling, or, on the other hand, of a strangely stubborn and incorrigible temper--the being we have to deal with, beheld not as transfigured by our imagination, but in his real condition, is a being of undeveloped spiritual nature. Nor is this all. While the germ of the spirit is in him, the germ of what in Scripture is called the flesh is in him too. He is capable, not only of religion, but of selfishness, irreverence falsehood, unkindness, impurity. You may have seen the German drawing of “the game of chess,” in which a youth plays with the devil, the stake being his soul; while the guardian angel bends as a good genius over the contest. That game is in the heart: our task is to encourage and assist the good principle against the bad. But the difficulty is not only within. From the evil that is in the world too, from the general level of human conduct, flows a mighty stream of influence, tending to carry the child either into sin or a mean mediocrity of character. How lift him out of that stream? How get him above the unworthy temper that not only arises within, but predominates around and insinuates itself into him, like an unwholesome atmosphere, at every pore? I have but one comprehensive means or instrument to propose, and that is Christian truth--which Christ in His own prayer relies upon to sanctify His disciples. Truth is the magazine and armoury, by winning which into our possession and vigorously bringing to bear upon our object, we can effect our threefold object of developing the spiritual nature, subordinating the animal nature to its right place and proportions, and giving a check or antidote to the corruptions of the world. But it must be truth taught and exemplified; for otherwise it is hardly the truth, but only its body without the soul--truth flowing audibly from the lips and silently from the character--truth in our conduct, feelings, affections, and principles, as well as in our patient speech and persuasion. In the religious education of a child, you aim at a great effect. Do you complain that you see little fruit from your exertions? But have you put in motion a power or cause, great in correspondence to the effect you would produce? If not, you are as unreasonable as the man spoken of in Scripture who would build a tower without counting the cost, or as it would have been to expect the fountain of refreshing waters to gush up in our sight, before the rock had been bored and the quicksand bridged to conduct the stream. The moral faculty, in an immortal soul, is not a flower like that which opens in the morning to shut at night, but nearer resembling the century-plant; and we must be content to nurse it through grade after grade of growth, slowly approximating the bright consummation, which, even in the saint, is but partially revealed in this earthly life. Only for our good cheer, in this gradual and perhaps tardy process, let us have faith in the law of cause and effect, as operating no less surely in the moral than in the material world. No more certainly will the sonorous church bell answer to its clanging tongue, calling us to worship, or the liquid water spread its successive circles from the falling stone, or our own voice penetrate the listening ear, than, sooner or later, will the sincere and vital truth we utter or practically manifest produce an influence upon all within our sphere, especially upon the susceptible young. As the engineer in the steamship or at the locomotive, if he observe the wheels slacken, increases the speed by increasing the power, acts on the circumference by first acting on the centre, and quickens the pulsations of that great heart of brass and iron which he wields, that he may hasten the motions of his car or vessel; or as the aeronaut, if his balloon will not carry the given weight into the atmosphere, does not sceptically sit down to repine, but only sets to work to generate more of the buoyant force; so are we not to be dispirited and unbelieving, when our moral ends in the minds and lives of the young are not accomplished as rapidly as we desire, and they do not rise to the height of purity above the world we would fain see them maintain: but we are to replenish our own spiritual stores, and clear a new passage for the perhaps obstructed waters of that well within, which springeth up into everlasting life. If the explosion, the precipitate, or the transparency does not follow upon the mingling of the chemist’s ingredients, as he expects, he attributes the failure of his experiment, not to any mysterious fatality or insuperable hindrance, but at once to his neglect of some of the requisite conditions; for nature does not lie, or ever prove treacherous. If the architect’s roof settles or his tower leans, he judges he has made some mistake in his foundation, his materials, or construction. If the artist’s canvas presents an untrue portraiture, his eye has been at fault as to the colouring, or his hand in the proportions. If a political movement, business plan, worldly speculation, or trial in husbandry, turns out badly, there has been some want of discernment, contrivance, or forecast. So the failure of our moral experiment upon the hearts of the young indicates the absence of some necessary ingredient. The weakness of our spiritual building proves that we have taken the sand for our basis, instead of having been at the pains to penetrate to the rock. And if there be no success, no return, no fruit, from our religious calculation and culture, the first and most likely inference is, that we have not endeavoured wisely, anticipated prudently, grappled with the real difficulties, taken advantage of favouring circumstances, or well prepared this living soil for the seed of God’s Word. I know, and do not forget the peculiarity involved in the fact, that we are not working in gross matter, as wood or stone, or dealing with such things as the wind and the rain in our planting, or wielding the mechanical elements of any earthly economy; but trying to impress a spiritual substance, essaying to guide a self-moving and free being, whose liberty and inclination and individuality of nature, whose situation and exposure to change and temptation beyond our reach, give a singular character to the terms upon which we can stand with or approach him. But all this does not make void, or even for a moment bring into the slightest question, the principle that has been laid down. Whatever may be done to the child by others, or whatever he may do to himself, our action upon him will nevertheless tell the full tale of its own quality and amount. The ship sailing across Atlantic seas may be retarded by the shellfish that fastens on her smooth sides, or be swept out of her course by the Gulf stream; nevertheless, the breezes of heaven, that have blown upon her, have produced their entire effect; and she would have been more retarded or further diverted, had those breezes intermitted their constancy, or abated their stress. Much of the force in all machinery is lost in friction; but the artisan does not therefore doubt the virtue of the central motive power, however much of it may be neutralised on the way. So our exertions, whether cancelled by hindrances or producing their free results, are fully reckoned in a positive or negative way. And we know that God Himself conspires with our enterprise; that we are humble, privileged co-workers with Him; setting our action in the line with His friendly providence; fulfilling what will ever more reveal itself, as dearer to Him than the making of worlds, kindling of suns, and balancing of constellations; sowing our seed, and preparing its tender sprout and blade for the dew He promises of His Spirit, and the rain that will descend of His grace. Said a wise elder in the ministry of the Gospel to a younger labourer in the vineyard, “If you want to save the souls of your people, you will.” So, if it be the real absorbing object of your desire and devotion to lead your little flocks into the ways of pleasantness and peace, you will at least set them in that blessed direction. And what reward of your labours greater than even their partial and commencing success? What should one so desire to do in the life he lives in this world, as to give to a soul the tendency of virtue, and inflame it with the love of God? (C. A. Bartol.)

On the religious instruction of the young


I.
To discourse of the cluster of admonitions contained in the words of my text.

1. These admonitions are addressed to the children of Israel and to everyone who professes to be an Israelite indeed.

2. That little children must be instructed with patience and perseverance.

3. That the statutes and judgments of the Lord should habitually be the conversation of His people, in the presence of their children and domestics.

4. That the statutes and commandments of the Lord should be constantly kept in view, habitually read and remembered.

5. That the doctrines of Divine revelation and the laws of heaven are to be perpetually practised.


II.
To specify some of the reasons why great attention is to be paid to the duty recommended in my text.

1. The authority of heaven binds you to this duty.

2. The love of God and of Christ should constrain you to the discharge of these duties.

3. The near relation in which you stand to them, and the engagements under which you have come for them, should excite you to the discharge of this duty.

4. You are obliged to discharge this duty, that the entail of religion may not be cut off from your family.

5. The consideration that this is the way to be a blessing both on the rising Church and the rising State, should excite you to the discharge of this duty.

Lessons:

1. From what has been said, let such as have been negligent in teaching their children and the rising generation in the knowledge of the statutes of the Lord, be convicted and reclaimed.

2. Learn to begin this pleasant and important task as soon as you possibly can.

3. Consider that this is the leading duty which you ought to discharge towards your children and the rising generation.

4. Learn from this subject to expect difficulties and discouragements when instructing your children in the ways of the Lord.

5. That you must not think of rolling the burden of the religious instruction of your children from off your own shoulders. (John Jardine.)

Parental obligations


I.
The command.

1. It emanated from the highest authority, the Lord Jehovah.

2. Fraught with the utmost importance; extending both to the cultivation of personal religion and to the furtherance of youthful piety by the special inculcation of Scripture truth.

3. Demands implicit obedience.


II.
To whom given. To Moses, as the temporal head, legislator, and judge of Israel, was confided the solemn and important charge of carrying into execution the commands of Jehovah. Thus, as a wise and faithful legislator, he “spake unto the people all that the Lord God had spoken unto him” (verse 27, etc.); to the intent “that they should make them known to their children, that they might set their hopes in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psalms 78:5-7).


III.
How far the conduct of Moses is worthy of our imitation. Although the Divine command delivered to Moses was intended for the Israel of God collectively, he regarded it as having reference to them also individually; and consequently, as obligatory upon himself, and intended, like every other Divine command, for the real happiness of man. Oh, ever let us receive the Word and command of God first for our own individual instruction; for it behoveth us, amid all our anxiety to impart, by personal exertions or by pecuniary supplies, the Word of God to others, to take good heed that we ourselves have “received that Word with pure affection” into our own hearts. Thus received, it will be the grand stimulus to personal holiness and to individual activity in the service of God. And besides, being brought through grace to “hope in God’s Word,” it is also a source of unspeakable comfort; and it furnishes the believer’s plea with God--“Remember the Word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.” And when his hope is beclouded, or his faith is “faint and sickly” in the hour of languishing and depression, the believer can say, “This is my comfort in my affliction: Thy Word hath quickened me; Thy statutes have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage.” Nay, more, he can say, with the written Word of God in his heart--with Christ, the Eternal Word, formed therein “the hope of glory,” “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee” (Psalms 73:25). This gracious and happy state of mind, we shall do well to imitate the conduct of Moses, in regarding the command as specially obligatory upon ourselves. But is not the conduct of Moses in his social or domestic character also highly worthy of our imitation? Parents, do you love your children? I know that you do. Availing himself, therefore, of the period of childhood and youth (when the mind is most impressible, and impressions, good or bad, most permanent), the Christian parent seizes upon every opportunity for the inculcation of those principles which will best regulate the affections of the heart and guard against temptations to outward sin; nay, more--“which are able to make wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” But what was worthy of imitation in the judicial and legislative conduct of Moses? All should respect the authority of God as revealed in His Word--the one grand standing statute book of the King of heaven, which ought to be the basis of every law enacted by the kings of the earth. The perfection of human law is the measure of the approximation of its principle to the Divine. The real prosperity and happiness of a nation will, therefore, always be in exact ratio with its practical knowledge of the Word of God. Lawgivers, and all who are entrusted with the administration of the law--magistrates, and all who bear office under them--would do well to imitate the zeal and fidelity of Moses, in enforcing by precept and example the inculcation of the Word of God as a national concern. (M. Seaman, D. D.)

The necessity and advantages of early religious education


I.
What need there is of the earliest instructions, with the most constant care afterwards to reinforce them, in order to make and keep men wise, virtuous, and religious. To express this to us by similitudes both just and beautiful, some philosophers compare a human soul to an empty cabinet of inexpressible value for the matter and workmanship, and particularly for the wonderful contrivance of it, as having all imaginable conveniences within for treasuring up jewels and curiosities of every kind. But, then, we ourselves must collect and sort them, and we shall ill deserve such a present from the Maker if we keep it empty or fill it with trifles; nay, if we do not, as we have opportunity, furnish and enrich it with whatsoever is of use or worth in art or nature. This ought indeed to he the main business of our lives. Others, with equal truth and justice, have likened the minds of children to a rasa tabula, or white paper, whereon we may imprint or write what characters we please, which will prove so lasting as not to be effaced without injuring or destroying the beauty of the whole; even as experience shows, and the son of Sirach advises, “My son, gather instruction from thy youth up” so shalt thou find wisdom till thine old age” (Sir 6:18). These first characters therefore ought to be deeply and beautifully struck, and the learning they express should be of great price. And this, if timely care be taken, may be done with ease, because the mind is then soft and tender, and because truth and right are by the nature of things as pleasant to the soul as light and proportion to the eye or as sweet as honey to the taste (Proverbs 11:10; Proverbs 24:13-14).


II.
What advantages are likely to follow from such instructions and such care, as well to the persons who are objects of them as to the communities wherein they live.

1. As to persons themselves. Without a good education the best natural parts would profit little, and could never exert and show themselves to advantage. Men would be raised thereby no higher than savages in knowledge or virtue, and might degenerate into that ignorance and brutality which travellers relate of Hottentots. Good natural parts are indeed like jewels, which in their natural state show little of their worth and few of their inherent beauties, till the skill and labour of the artist have taken off their roughness, decked them with light, discovered their different waters and colours, and spread through every part an amazing brightness and glory. Education, after like manner, if it have its perfect work upon a human soul, will throw out to view and give a lustre to every latent virtue and perfection which otherwise might never have made an appearance, much less a figure, in the world. Thus, likewise, to speak in vegetable metaphors, the choicest seeds will prove of no value if we sow or plant them in bad ground where they will decay or die; and if they fall into good, they will be overrun and choked with weeds, which are ever most rank in the richest soils, unless constant care be taken to root them out. They certainly can never grow and flourish in any soil so as to bring their natural fruit to perfection, without cultivating, manuring, watering, pruning, and all the other arts of skilful management that the best of gardeners or husbandmen can exercise.

2. Without having any view to the good and happiness of private persons, a religious and wise education of children is of so great concern to the communities wherein they live, that in all the best ordered governments of old time, public care was taken of it; and in some of them it was thought right and necessary to take them wholly out of the hands of bad, ill judging, or over-fond parents, and to place them in public schools and seminaries. And though the natural claim of parents may, all things considered, be the best, yet we shall see great reason for the other practice if we consider too that religion and virtue is the only true cement of all society; that the principles of both must be conveyed by education; and that (as private vices spread their poison through the whole community) most of the disorders, mischiefs, and confusions which disturb and harass any state, or the members of it, may be justly charged upon the want of it. (John Donne, D. D.)

Child trained for Christ

A father whom I knew had a son who had long been ill and whose end was approaching. One day when he came home the mother told him that their child was like to die, and the father went at once to his bedside. “My son, do you know that you are dying?” said he. “Then I will be with Jesus tonight,” was the answer. “Yet, father,’ he added, “don’t you grieve for me, for when I get to heaven I will go straight to Jesus and tell Him that you brought me to Him when I was a child.” (D. L. Moody.)

The Bible the standard of education

If we do not adopt the Bible as our standard in training the young, combined training is impossible. If in moral principles every man is his own lawgiver, there is no law at all, and no authority. You may train a fruit tree by nailing its branches to a wall, or tying them to an espalier railing; but the tree whose branches have nothing to lean upon but air is not trained at all. It is not a dispute between the Scriptures and some other rival standard, for no such standard exists or is proposed. It is a question between the Bible as a standard and no standard at all. But training without an acknowledged standard is nothing--is an empty form of words, by which ingenious men amuse themselves. There are some who would borrow from the Bible whatever moral principles they have, and yet are unwilling to own the Scriptures, in their integrity, as an authority binding the conscience; because, if it is binding in one thing, it is binding in all. (W. Arnot.)

A whole family trained for God

I happened to know two aged ministers of the Gospel. One of them told him that he prayed that he might never have a child who was not a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ. God gave him ten children, and he said to me, on his dying bed, “Nine of my children are God’s children, and I am dying full of faith that the tenth will be also His.” It was my privilege to be the instrument in God’s hands of leading the tenth to the Saviour. (W. Grant.)

Training of children

The first thing to be instilled into the minds of children is to fear God. This is the beginning, the middle, and the end of wisdom. Next, they ought to be induced to be kind to one another. Great care ought to be taken to guard against speaking on improper subjects in their presence, since lasting impressions are made at a very early age; on the contrary, our conversation ought to be on good and instructive topics. Imperceptibly to themselves or others, they derive great benefit from such discourse, for it is quite certain that children take the tinge either of good or evil, without the process being discovered. (Philip de Mornay.)

Religious training

“It is already a hard case with me,” the Queen says, when she speaks of the pressure of public business which prevented her from giving to the little Princess-Royal all the attention she wished, “that my occupations prevent me from being with her when she says her prayers.” And we may quote entire the note of instructions in respect to religious training which the young mother of twenty-five put down for the guidance of her deputies in this important work: “I am quite clear that she should be taught to have great reverence for God and for religion, but that she should have the feeling of devotion and love which our Heavenly Father encourages His earthly children to have for Him, and not one of fear and trembling; and that the thoughts of death and an after life should not be presented in an alarming and forbidding view, and that she should be made to know as yet no difference of creeds.”

Training of children

Be very vigilant over thy child in the April of his understanding, lest the frost of May nip his blossoms. While he is a tender twig, straighten him; whilst he is a new vessel, season him; such as thou makest him, such commonly shalt thou find him. Let his first lesson be obedience, and his second shall be what thou wilt. Give him education in good letters, to the utmost of thy ability and his capacity. Season his youth with the love of his Creator, and make the fear of his God the beginning of his knowledge. (F. Quarles.)

Training children for God at the start of life

I do not think I was ever so much impressed by a picture as I was by one, although it was only a rough woodcut, that I saw in Chamouni, Switzerland. It was a representation of a group of people that had been trying a few months before to climb the Alps. You know that people who climb the Alps have a rope put around the waist, and guides go first and guides come after. The rope connects them all together, so that if one slips the others may save him from fatality. Well, this group of eight or ten people were on the side of the mountain, all tied together, passing along on a very slippery place, and one slipped and dropped, and the others slipped and were going down this precipice, when one man with more muscular power than the others, halted on the ice--stuck his feet into the iceberg and halted; but; the rope broke! Fifty years from now, at the foot of that glacier, the rest will be found. Here is a whole family bound together by a cord of affection wandering on the slippery places of worldliness and sin. All given up to the world. No Christ in that family. All bound together and on the slippery places. Passing on down, the father, at fifty years of age, strikes his foot on the Rock of Ages, and halts. But the rope broke! the rope broke! A ship carpenter in New York walks up and says: “That vessel has been gone three days at sea. Why, there is a timber in that vessel that ought not to have been there. It was worm-eaten.” Or, “I had a timber put in that ship that was the wrong kind of wood. Oh! I am so sorry about it, I am so very sorry. I will correct it. I have another piece of timber to put in the place of it.” Correct it! That ship went down last night in a cyclone. Oh! the time to train our children for God and for heaven is at the start; it is at the start. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Write them upon the posts of thy house.--

God’s laws to be remembered

1. At the time this command was given there were few written copies of the whole law, and the people had it read to them only at the Feast of Tabernacles. God, therefore, seemed to have appointed, at least for the present, that some select sentences of the law should literally be written upon their gates and walls, or on slips of parchment to be worn about their wrists or bound upon their foreheads.

2. The spirit of the command, however, and the chief thing intended, undoubtedly was that they should give all diligence, and use all means to keep God’s laws always in remembrance; as men frequently bind something upon their hands or put something before their eyes to prevent forgetfulness of a thing that they much desire to remember. But the Jews, forgetting the spirit and design of this precept, used these things as superstitious people do amulets or charms. They used also to put these slips of parchment into a piece of cane or other hollow wood, and fasten that to the door of their houses, and of each particular door in them, and as often as they go in and out they make it a part of their devotion to touch the parchment and kiss it. (J. Wilson.)

Verses 10-12

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

Cities which thou buildedst not.

The Divine transference of man’s property


I.
God’s right to the secular property of men. Not merely the and, but also all productions of labour, belong to Him.


II.
The fate of all earthly possessions. The only property that we can retain, that we can carry with us, and which can bless us wherever we go, is moral--the property of a holy character.


III.
The principle of entail in God’s government of man. One man labours, and another man enters into his labours. So it has ever been, so it is now.

1. It is so politically.

2. Socially.

3. Religiously.


IV.
A type of a good time that is coming. The Church shall take the property of the world.


V.
The primary condition of man’s well-being in every age. “Beware lest thou forget the Lord.”

1. That forgetfulness of the Lord is an immense evil.

2. That worldly prosperity exposes us to this immense evil. (Homilist.)

Beware lest thou forget the Lord.

The dangers of prosperity, and the means of avoiding them


I.
The dangers of prosperity. One danger to be apprehended from prosperity is, that a man may thereby be led to forget God as the Author of his blessings, and the Sovereign Disposer of those events which have issued in success. Alienation of heart from God is the result of our fallen state. Should prosperity come upon us unexpectedly, without any previous effort on our part, there is fuel, as it were, applied to the unhallowed fire within, which causes the natural carnality of our hearts to exhibit itself with a force before unknown. Should, however, man’s prosperity in this world be the result of well-directed efforts of his own, there is a temptation lest we should forget God who has given us power to succeed in our endeavours, lest we should attribute to our own strength or wisdom what is due chiefly to Him of whom we have received our all, and to whom all the praise is due. But we may notice other dangers connected with worldly prosperity. There is a security sometimes issuing out of it which is altogether inconsistent with man’s frail and uncertain tenure (Psalms 30:6; Psalms 49:11; Job 29:18; Luke 12:16; Luke 12:19; Luke 12:21). We should not undervalue the blessing of temporal welfare; it is God’s gift, and ought to be enjoyed with thankfulness in Him. It is then sweetest when it is possessed as the fruit of His goodness towards us, and when we consider ourselves as accountable to Him for the use of it. But dependence upon our worldly treasures is at once irreligion and folly. To look for happiness, as issuing out of anything in this present world independent of God, is to search for bright colours in the dark--is to mistake the end of our being, and to occupy ourselves with a fruitless toil.


II.
Methods by which these dangers may be counteracted.

1. First and chiefly: God must be before our eyes. We should enshrine Him in our heart and memory, not only as our omnipotent Creator, but as our Protector--as our Governor--as “the Author and Giver of all good things”--as the Sovereign Disposer of all events--by whom the ravens are fed, and thy lilies of the field do grow and clothe themselves with beauty.

2. Another means for avoiding the danger of prosperity is this: meditation upon God. Our danger arises from thinking too much of ourselves. To overcome this danger we must meditate often upon God; upon His goodness, glory, and majesty.

3. But last of all, that we may not be overwhelmed by the dangers which threaten us from worldly prosperity, we must meditate much and deeply upon the superior glory of eternal realities. Our hearts must be imbued with the love of Christ. Our hearts must dwell on His matchless grace in dying for us. In this way we must endeavour to form some estimate of the glorious salvation which is in store for us hereafter. Against the riches, honours, and comforts of this present world we must set the riches which no moth corrupteth, the honour which cometh only from God; the consolations of His Spirit, and the happiness of the redeemed. (H. J. Hastings, M. A.)

Sudden prosperity fatal to religion


I.
That a just sense of the Supreme Being is the best security for a man’s virtue. I say a just sense, because wrong apprehensions of the Deity have generally had a very unhappy influence on the interests of virtue; as is evident to everyone who compares the religion and manners of the heathen world. This was probably the reason why Moses was so solicitous to suppress all personal representations of the Deity through his whole economy; he knew very well that the people would naturally borrow their idea of God from the representations they saw of Him, and that the idea of their God would be the measure of their morality. There are few things that have contributed more to the extent of vice than the hope of secrecy, which vanishes at the very apprehension of a Being who seeth in secret. But our idea of the Deity stops not here; we consider Him not barely as a spectator of our actions, but as a judge of them too; and he must be an insolent offender, indeed, who will dare to commit a crime in the sight of Him who he knows will judge him, who he is sure will condemn him for it. The hope of reward and fear of punishment add fresh vigour to the cause of virtue.


II.
This sense of God is often much effaced, sometimes absolutely lost, in a state of ease and affluence. The observation of Moses has its foundation in nature, is evident to experience, and confirmed by a greater than Moses, who tells us how difficult it is for those who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God; and we find how difficult it is for those who have them not to trust in them. When we are under any immediate presence of affliction, when we are despised and deserted by men, we look upon God as a present help in trouble; but that exigence is no sooner over than we begin to see Him at a great distance. We no longer call to heaven for that satisfaction which we can now find from earth, but depend upon the second cause for that support which can never be attained but from the First. We begin to fancy ourselves established even beyond the reach of providence, or the possibility of change. There is something in the very nature of ease which is apt to enervate the mind and introduce a languid effeminacy into all its faculties. The senses, by an habitual indulgence, gain ground upon the understanding and usurp the province of reason, which must inevitably decline in proportion as the sensual affections prevail; the spirit becomes less willing as the flesh grows more weak; we sink into an indolent oblivion of our Maker, and fall amongst the number of those who are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” It is obvious to observe here, that as every corruption in our principles is followed by proportionate decay in our practice, so every corruption in our practice is attended with an equal decay in our principles; from whence it appears that religion and virtue are inseparably united, they must flourish and fall together; they are lovely in their lives, and in their deaths they cannot be divided.


III.
A state of ease and affluence, as it tempts us strongly to lose, so it lays us under greater obligations to retain and improve that sense of God upon our minds. You, who inhabit great and goodly cities which you did not build, who inherit houses full of all good things which you did not fill; you, whose fortunes seem to be showered upon you directly from heaven, while others are forced by the sweat of their brows to raise them from the earth; as you are blessed with higher degrees of the bounties of God, so are you more eminently obliged to preserve a stronger sense of them. Your duty increases with the eminence of your station, and your obligations to it are multiplied by the number of your advantages.


IV.
I shall now point out to you, in the last place, some of those means which seem most likely to preserve and improve those conceptions upon our minds. And I think there can be no better than those which Moses recommends to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:6-7. When you thus begin and end sour day, when you thus open your morning and close your evening, you cannot absolutely forget the Lord, especially if you make Him the subject of your conversation too. The next direction is, to teach the commandments of God to your children; but a man cannot well teach that to another of which he is ignorant himself. And every time you endeavour to imprint a sense of God upon the minds of your children, you must necessarily make so strong an impression of it upon your own that you can never be able to forget the Lord. (T. Ashton, D. D.)

Forgetfulness of God

It is remarkable how frequently in the Book of Deuteronomy, when God is giving His final summary of instructions to the Israelites, the warning is repeated, that the Jewish Church forget not God and His dealings with them in connection with their deliverance from Egypt. Such warnings strike us the more forcibly, because the people to whom they were addressed had come into the closest contact with God, and had been favoured with the clearest visible evidences of His presence. To have seen Jesus in the flesh, to have witnessed His miracles, these would have been privileges the memory of which could have never passed away. Now, all such reasonings are mere self-deception. That there is a deep fallacy involved therein is manifest from the fact that the Jewish Church, which had the most abundant ocular demonstration of God and of His power, is so repeatedly cautioned against this forgetfulness of God. With this fact impressed upon our minds it will be profitable to consider the ways in which forgetfulness of God displays itself.

1. This tendency will be perceived in respect to God Himself. We acknowledge that it is in God that we live and move and have our being; yet we rarely find a sustained recognition of God. We do not walk day by day as seeing by the eye of faith Him who is invisible. What an importance would it give to life could we attain to that deep sense of the consciousness of God’s immediate presence and majesty which is implied in the brief but full description of the spiritual life of those of whom it is recorded, that they walked with God.

2. But besides this forgetfulness of God in His abstract nature and perfections, we trace this evil in a similar forgetfulness of Him in His operations. God in His glorious majesty dwelleth in the highest heavens, but in His operations and providential dealings He is ever, as it were, coming down to earth and meeting us closely and continually in the pathway of our lives. Every comfort is held out to our acceptance by the hand of God; in every trial we may trace the discipline of God. But this we over’ look: human agency, second causes, personal effort, self-dependence, come in between us and God. Backsliding Israel at length reached this point, that they knew not that it was God who gave them their corn and wine and oil, and multiplied their silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.

3. Forgetfulness of God also displays itself in respect to that covenant which He has made with us in Christ. The Jewish Church had a special warning upon this head: Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you. A covenant with man is not disregarded nor trifled with. We are less scrupulous with respect to God. Our covenant with God goes beyond that of the Jewish Church, in that it brings Christ before us in His finished work, and no longer veiled in types and shadows. All that God can give to sinful man is our covenant portion in the Son of His love, the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Another painful feature of this infirmity is to be found in the forgetfulness of the Lord Jesus as our Saviour. It is noted as one point in the sinfulness of Israel, that they forgat God their Saviour, who had done great things in Egypt. The Passover was to be the means of maintaining a devout remembrance of this deliverance. In like manner the Lord’s Supper was to be a commemorative ordinance to keep ever before the minds of His people a lively remembrance of their greater deliverance by the death and sufferings of the Redeemer. Do this, says our Lord, in remembrance of Me. The grace and condescension, the tender love and never-failing compassion of the Saviour, His sufferings, and agony, and death, fade from our recollection.

5. We may notice one other form of this forgetfulness of Divine things. In addition to those ordinary influences of the means of grace upon the soul which the believer experiences, there are some occasions of special blessing. Some striking or alarming providence of God brings us, as it were, into His immediate presence; under the preaching of the Word, or in the prayerful study of it, the mysteries of spiritual truth are opened to the mind; it is a time of bright light, of quickened affections, of holy aspirations, of heavenly communion with God. In the moment of such ecstasy we feel how good it is to be here, and imagine that we shall go forth with the holy influence of such a season abidingly with us. It is a new era in our spiritual life. We can never be again engrossed, as in times fast, with the vanities of time. Yet the memory here again betrays its trust. Forgetfulness of the heights which we have reached lowers the tone of our spiritual life; coldness creeps over the soul; and it is well if we escape the state of backsliding Israel, when she “went after her lovers, and forgot Me, saith the Lord.”

6. This forgetfulness of God cannot be confined to any one period of life; it meets us everywhere. As we look back upon the sins of our youth, this rises up as one of the most overwhelming. Amidst the buoyant spirits of our early days, and the cheerfulness of home, and the freshness of our first affections, where was God? What place did He occupy in our minds and in our hearts. “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. But as years pass on, and manhood succeeds to youth, other objects engross the thoughts to the exclusion of God. The cares and anxieties attendant upon the start in life, the turmoil of business, the engrossing and ensnaring contact with the world,--these present no atmosphere favourable to the cultivation of habitual converse with God. Nor, if we follow on our search into advanced life, do we find it otherwise. Grey hairs and decreasing strength would seem to give a sufficiently solemn warning to prepare to meet God; but it is remarkable how entirely indifference and insensibility to Divine things mark an old age which succeeds a manhood of worldliness and a youth of thoughtlessness. Thus does forgetfulness of God accompany the worldly man through every period of his earthly life; and, in the case of the believer, the danger is equally present, and forms a main element in the severe conflict of his inner life. But though sin has introduced this infirmity into our fallen nature, God has not left us without a remedy.

The evil may, through grace, be counteracted and overcome; and in order to this, the following suggestions are offered to the earnest Christian.

1. Realise the danger. Understand that the memory has a tendency to betray its trust, and neglect its duty in that which relates to God. There are many circumstances in our ordinary life which never pass away. Let a man be exposed to shipwreck, or to a railway accident, the horrors of the scene would be ever before him. There are many scenes of domestic interest which never lose their freshness. But it is otherwise in our spiritual life; and we should know it and feel it. Many an Israelite probably thought that he never could forget the passage through the Red Sea, or the terrors of Mount Sinai; but they did forget them. And so we think that the strong impression and deep conviction is to abide with us. Or we think, perhaps, that though gone for a while, it is only hidden in some secret place of memory’s storehouse, and when needed will be produced again. But we are mistaken; and when we sit down to recall the past dealings with God, memory retains little beyond the bare fact; all the lesser yet perhaps more striking and instructive peculiarities of the dispensation are lost.

2. With this danger realised we next observe the need of much diligence and pains to counteract it. The natural faculty of memory differs greatly in its power in different individuals; but when weak, either generally or in any particular respect, we have recourse to certain means and helps for assisting and strengthening it. A careful and systematic classification of events, or the aid of a Memoria Technica, or a well-arranged commonplace book, will go far to supply the deficiencies of memory. Men will think no pains too great which will enable them thus to master the events of history or the facts of science. But when we pass from the subjects of human learning to the record of God’s dealings with the Church and our own souls, all such efforts on our part are deemed useless and superfluous. We must be careful, too, in carrying out into corresponding action any impressions which have been made upon our minds, so as to fix them in the character by habits resulting from them. And we must note any dealings of God with us in providence or in grace which seem calculated to bring us nearer to Himself, in patient dependence or in grateful love.

3. In the use of these and like helps it is necessarily implied that the soul will be seeking by earnest prayer the effectual aid of the Holy Spirit. We have viewed this forgetfulness of God as an inseparable consequence of our fallen nature, and one which no amount of outward and sensible evidence or impression can of itself obviate, as the case of the Israelites hilly proves. A similar, and even stronger, proof is presented in the case of the apostles. They had enjoyed unrestrained intercourse with our blessed Lord for several years. His conversation, His teaching, never could be forgotten. Yet the mere moral and physical effects of this teaching would be counteracted by the weak and treacherous nature of human memory; and hence our Lord promises a direct operation of the Holy Spirit to remedy this infirmity: “The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (Christian Observer.)

The danger of forgetting God


I.
The tendency that there is in us to forget God.

1. Forgetting the presence of God.

2. Forgetfulness of God in worship.

3. Forgetting the commandments of God.

4. Forgetting God’s redeeming love.


II.
The cause of forgetfulness of God. Prosperity.


III.
The danger of this forgetfulness. Now, just let me show you that the Scripture tells us that they “shall be turned into hell” who forget God. “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver!” But the danger of living without God is the danger of dying without God; and the man that dies without God dies without hope. You will recollect that God in a special manner complains of this with reference to His ancient people. In the first chapter of Isaiah we are told that He had nourished and brought up children, but that Israel bad rebelled against Him; that the ox knew his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel, God’s own people, did not consider. Are there not many amongst you that do not consider? Are there not some amongst us that have forgotten God? But so strongly has the Scripture laid down the danger which awaits the forgetters of God, that we find that God in a special manner has condescended to help us that we may remember Him. For instance, let us look at the very text, and at that part of the text to which I was referring just now. “Beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Why, what great things God has done for us to remind us of redeeming love? What a blessing it is that we have a special ordinance, which it is impossible to approach with any light in our minds, without reflecting that it represents the dying love of Jesus, and is, as it were, bidding us ask ourselves whether we have a thankful remembrance of the death of Christ! What a blessing it is that God has appointed men in a special manner to go forth and to preach that Gospel which shall remind their fellow sinners of that same redeeming level God has done everything to prevent our forgetting Him, and lead us to consider our ways, and consider our personal relationship to Him, to consider our daily dependence upon Him for the things of this life, and to consider our complete dependence upon Him for the things of the life to come. (Bp. Villiers.)

Beware of prosperity

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. 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, “then beware lest thou forget,” etc. Prosperity has its trials. 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 their 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.” Men have been ruined by prosperity. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Danger of prosperity

Many are not able to suffer and endure prosperity; it is like the light of the sun to a weak eye; glorious, indeed, in itself, but not proportioned to such an instrument; Adam himself (as the Rabbins say) did not dwell one night in paradise, but was poisoned with prosperity, with the beauty of his fair wife, and a beauteous tree: and Noah and Lot were both righteous and exemplary, the one to Sodom, and the other to the old world, so long as they lived in a place in which they were obnoxious to the common suffering; but as soon as the one of them had escaped from drowning and the other from burning, and put into security, they fell into crimes which have dishonoured their memories for above thirty generations together, the crimes of drunkenness and incest. Wealth and a full fortune make men licentiously vicious, tempting a man with power, to act all that he can desire or design viciously. (Bp. Taylor.)

Forgetfulness through prosperity

Strolling along the banks of a pond, Gotthold observed a pike basking in the sun, and so pleased with the sweet soothing rays as to forget itself and the danger to which it was exposed. Thereupon a boy approached, and with a snare formed of a horsehair and fastened to the end of a rod, which he skilfully cast over his head, pulled it in an instant out of the water. “Ah me!” said Gotthold, with a deep sigh, “how evidently do I here behold shadowed forth the danger of my poor soul! When the beams of temporal prosperity play upon us to our heart’s content, so grateful are they to corrupt flesh and blood that, immersed in sordid pleasure, luxury, and security, we lose all sense of spiritual danger, and all thought of eternity. In this state many are, in fact, suddenly snatched away to the eternal ruin of their souls.”

Forgetfulness of God but too easy

The solemn possibility is the possibility of forgetting God and God’s providence in human life. We may not have endeavoured to expunge, as by an express and malicious effort; but memory is treacherous; the faculty of recollection is otherwise than religiously employed, and before we are quite aware of what has been done, a complete wreck has been wrought in the memory of the soul. There will settle upon the intellectual faculties themselves, and upon the senses of the body, a stupidity amounting to sinfulness. The eye is meant to be the ally of the memory. Many men can only remember through the vision; they have no memory for things abstract, but once let them see clearly an object or a writing, and they say they can hold the vision evermore. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Verses 14-15

Deuteronomy 6:14-15

Thou shalt not go after other gods.

The forbidden path

In all our hearts there is a tendency to depart from God, to forget what He commands, “to go after what He forbids. This forbidden path is described.

1. It is entered by many. The path of “the people,” “the gods” of the age. Idolatry of every kind is the root and nourisher of error and superstition--the expression and epitome of human nature--the foul dishonour to God and His supremacy. “Go not after other gods to serve them and to worship them” (Jeremiah 25:6).

2. It is offensive to God. It stirs up God’s anger and rouses His jealousy. Bishop Patrick observes that we never find in law or prophets, anger, or fury, or jealousy, or indignation attributed to God, but upon occasion of idolatry.

3. It is destructive in its end. “Destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” Idolatry corrupts the body and petrifies the heart. Like a withering mildew it overspreads the earth and blights the nations. The warning voice from above should be heard: “Ye shall bear the sins of your idols, and ye shall know that I am the Lord God.” (J. Wolfendale.)

Jealousy the shadow of love

All sin is a caricature of virtue, and sin never looks so shameful as when we put it beside the virtue which it caricatures. The Bible seems to attribute human passions to God. He is a jealous God, an angry God. But jealousy and anger are distortions of virtue, as the face of the man in anger is a distortion of the same face in repose. The very passions of men, rightly inspired and rightly guided, are Divine. For this very reason, wrongly caused, wrongly inspired, wrongly guided, they are the more detestable. What is worse than jealousy? Read of it in Othello. But is jealousy always wicked? Was it wicked in Elijah when, looking out upon a devastated and desolate kingdom, with Israel’s allegiance swept away from God, he cried out in agony of prayer to Him, “I have been jealous for Thy name, O Lord of Hosts”? Was it wicked in Paul when, writing to the Corinthians, who had at one time held firmly to their love for Christ, and had been swept away from their allegiance, the apostle cries out, “I am filled with a godly jealousy for you”? Jealousy is the shadow love casts; and the greater the love the greater the possibility of the shadow. Jealousy is the revulsion of feeling against that which assails love. And as the musician, full of keenness of ear and ecstasy of pleasure in fine music, revolts against a discord, so the soul that is rich in love and sensitive to all the pulsations of love revolts against whatsoever impinges upon and violates love. (Lyman Abbott.)

Verse 16

Deuteronomy 6:16

Ye shall not tempt the Lord.

Christ tempted through unbelief

We know that though God cannot be tempted with evil, He may justly be said to be tempted whenever men, by being dissatisfied with His dealings, virtually ask that He will alter those dealings, and proceed in a way more congenial to their feelings. Suppose a man to be discontented with the appointments of Providence, suppose him to murmur at what the Almighty allots him to do or to bear: is he not to be charged with the asking God to change His purposes? And what is this if it is not tempting God, and striving to induce Him to swerve from His plans, though every one of those plans has been settled by Infinite Wisdom? Or again, if anyone of us, notwithstanding the multiplied proofs of Divine loving kindness, question whether or not God do indeed love him, of what is he guilty, if not of tempting the Lord, seeing that he solicits God to the giving additional evidence, as though there was a deficiency, and challenges Him to a fresh demonstration of what He has already abundantly displayed? In short, unbelief of every kind and every degree may be said to tempt God. For not to believe upon the evidence which He has seen fit to give is to provoke Him to give more, offering our possible assent if proof were increased as an inducement to Him to go beyond what His wisdom has prescribed. And if in this, and the like sense, God may be tempted, what can be more truly said of the Israelites than that they tempted God in Massah? Was there ever a people for whom so much had been done, on whose behalf so many miracles had been wrought, or for whose protection there had been such signal displays of Omnipotence? And, indeed, we are perhaps not accustomed to think of unbelief or murmuring as a tempting God, and therefore we do not attach to what is so common, its just degree of heinousness. Yet we cannot be dissatisfied with God’s dealings, and not be virtually guilty of tempting God. It may seem a harsh definition of a slight and scarcely avoidable fault, but nevertheless it is a true definition. You cannot mistrust God, and not accuse Him of want either of power or of goodness. So that your fear, or your despondency, or your anxiety in circumstances of perplexity or peril are nothing less than the calling upon God to depart from His fixed course--a suspicion, or rather an assertion, that He might proceed in a manner more worthy of Himself, and therefore a challenge to Him to alter His dealings if He would prove that He possesses the attributes which He claims. But it is now in His mediatorial rather than His Divine capacity that we would wish to show you how Christ may be tempted. There is a great general similarity between the two cases, for in both the Supreme Being is tempted if we practically undervalue what He has done for us--throw scorn upon the proofs already given of His love, and thus virtually challenge Him to do more or give greater. Ah, this may be putting neglect of Christ and His Gospel under an unusual aspect; but prove to us, if you can, that it is not just. We affirm, that by every refusal to turn from your sins, and to seek that repentance and remission which Christ died to procure, and lives to bestow, you are as literally guilty of tempting Christ as were the Israelites in the desert, when they provoked God by their repining and unbelief. You tempt Him precisely in the sense in which the Israelites tempted God, by practically denying that what has been done on your behalf has bound you to His service; and therefore, by practically demanding that He interfere again and again, and with mightier tokens of supremacy and compassion. And how little had been done for the Israelites by God in comparison with what has been done by Christ Jesus for us! It was much that God had wrenched from the neck of a captive people the yoke of an oppressor; but think of your emancipation from the thraldom of Satan! By plague and prodigy had the Egyptians been discomfited: but what is this to death vanquished, the grave rifled, and heaven opened by the triumphs of the Mediator? God gave the people manna from heaven; but what is this to Christ giving the true bread--His own flesh--for the life of the world? The tabernacle was set up, and Aaron, with the Urim and Thummim on his breast, could intercede with God, and gain oracular response; but what is this to our having a High Priest within the veil, having at His disposal all the gifts of the Spirit? Ay, if it show great hardness of heart, great ingratitude, great perverseness, that men who had seen waters turned into blood, and the sea divided, and the food brought in profusion by the stretching forth the rod of the lawgiver, should have been fretful and mistrustful in every new trial, what is evidenced by our conduct if we continue to be careless and unbelieving--we before whose eyes Christ Jesus is evidently set forth crucified amongst us? I dare no longer compare that tempting of God with which the Israelites were charged, with that tempting of Christ of which numbers amongst ourselves are continually guilty. It were to say that a temporal deliverance and a temporal Canaan gave as great evidence of the love of the Almighty towards men, and of infinite power being engaged in their succour, as redemption from everlasting death, and an inheritance that fadeth not away. Oh, no! there is sameness in the mode of temptation, but there is vast difference in the degree of guiltiness. Yet the Israelites were terribly visited. And “how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation”? (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Verse 18

Deuteronomy 6:18

Fear the Lord thy God, and serve Him.

Moses’ serious and affectionate charge to Israel


I.
A solemn charge given.

1. Hear the Word of the Lord. This message is neglected or abused--

(1) By those who seldom or never attend a place of public worship: let such consider how they will be able to account for their negligence (Hebrews 2:1-3).

(2) By those who visit places of worship, but who sleep when they should hear (Revelation 3:14-19).

(3) By those who are usually engaged in worldly contemplations while under the sound of the Word (Amos 8:5). Hence the charge is--

2. Observe the Word of the Lord. Observe--

(1) The doctrinal truths taught--respecting God’s claim on us; and God has claims on us as our Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, etc.

respecting our obligation to obedience, from gratitude, fear, hope, etc.

(2) The preceptive part of what is taught--concerning both outward and reward obedience, and the discrepancy between our conduct and spirit and the extensive requirements of the holy law (Mark 12:30-31).

(3). The promissory and encouraging part of what is taught--respecting the freeness and plenitude of Divine grace, to pity and pardon our transgressions (Isaiah 1:18); to purify our hearts (Ezekiel 36:25-27); and to help our infirmities (Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 4:14-16). The observance required is, however, principally in reference to practice.

3. Obey the Word of the Lord. “Observe to do it.” This refers to what in Deuteronomy 6:1, Moses called “the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord your God commanded.”


II.
Important benefits proposed. As a stimulus to the Israelites to devote themselves to the service of Jehovah, Moses proposes--

1. Their safety; their well-being--“that it may be well with thee.” By way of contrast, look at Deuteronomy 4:23-26; Deuteronomy 27:26; Deuteronomy 28:16-20. Disobedience always exposes to danger, to destruction. But “say ye to the righteous” - the obedient believer - “it shall be well with him. He shall be well instructed” (Psalms 25:9; 1 John 2:20); well defended (Deuteronomy 32:9-11); well provided (Psalms 34:10; Philippians 4:19). It shall be well with such, not only through life, but also at death (Psalms 116:15); at judgment (Matthew 25:34; 2 Thessalonians 1:10); and forever (Psalms 16:11). But we must return to observe that Moses proposes--

2. Their prosperity--“that ye may increase mightily.” This may have respect--

(1) To an increase of wealth--“houses full of all good things, etc. (Deuteronomy 28:11). Or--

(2) To an increase of numbers (Deuteronomy 7:13). In the former case they would have an increase of their means of enjoyment; in the latter they would more “mightily” resist and overcome their enemies (Deuteronomy 7:24); and in both they might with less difficulty and greater cheerfulness attend on the services of the Most High. We, as Christians, may expect prosperity of a higher order.

1. Individually, we may be blessed with a sense of pardoning love, and fellowship with God through His Son (1 John 1:3); may be enriched with the fruits of the Divine Spirit, “love, joy, peace,” etc. (Galatians 5:22-23); strengthened with “might in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16); and continue to “grow in grace,” etc. (2 Peter 3:18). Hence we shall be enabled to bear temptation more easily; and in our conflict with Satan and his servants, our having prospered “mightily” will appear in our effectual resistance and our final triumph. And hence--

2. While the members of churches adorn their profession, we may hope that the churches collectively will receive an accession of members who, won by our Christian deportment, shall glorify God on our behalf. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

Serve God


I.
What is it to serve God?

1. To dedicate ourselves wholly to Him.

(1) Our souls, understandings, wills, affections.

(2) Our bodies.

(3) Our estates.

(4) Our gifts.

(5) Our authority.

(6) Our time.

2. To make His laws the rule of our lives.

3. To endeavour to please Him in all things.


II.
Why serve God? He is our Maker, Preserver, Redeemer, etc,


III.
Exhortation. “Serve God”--

1. Spiritually.

2. Obediently.

3. Willingly.

4. Cheerfully.

5. Faithfully.

6. Humbly.

7. Thankfully. (W. Stevens.)

Verses 20-21

Deuteronomy 6:20-21

When thy son asketh thee.

Remembrances of holy privileges

We are also favoured with Divine ordinances, as were the Israelites; and for the same purpose, for a pious testimony to keep alive upon the earth a remembrance of God’s surpassing love. As to them pertained “the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the service of God and the promises,” so to us pertain the gracious promises of life and salvation, and all the privileges and ordinances of the Christian covenant. So that when children, as reason begins to dawn, and they find themselves growing up amid certain religious ordinances, shall ask the meaning, we may always be able to point, with humble gratitude, to the origin and intent of every duty and service. The lisping babe is given to hear, perchance is taught to sing, of the cross which was traced on its forehead in infancy; and the pious mother is asked, What did it signify? She will point with tenderness to the Cross of Christ, to the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb; and the holy emblem, thus stamped upon the youthful mind and heart, may be there forever fixed by the Holy Spirit of God, as a living image of the truth in Jesus, as an everlasting memorial of His dying love. The child lifts up its hands in prayer; and wherefore lifted up? To its Father in heaven; to the mercy seat at which a Saviour pleads; and from which the Holy Spirit, with His manifold gifts, is sent down, gifts for childhood and youth, for manhood and age: and this in obedience to that Saviour’s word (Matthew 7:7; John 14:13; John 15:16). The child learns to read; the Bible is opened; and every page is fraught with grace, is glowing with mercy. Here are tender invitations which the youngest can understand and feel. And thus our youth have in their hand a constant remembrancer of God Almighty’s goodness; the Word written by the Spirit, and taught by the Spirit, to each obedient heart of old and young. The points are but few, respecting children, upon which we can now touch; but there is yet another, which marks rather the transition state between the child and the man, at least where greater responsibility beans. The children of the Church are brought to the bishop to be confirmed and here is a mighty memorial. All the privileges of holy baptism are then placed in view, and impressed powerfully on the heart. And over the whole of our Christian life and walk the tokens and reminiscences of God’s goodness are plentifully spread; in all our Divine ordinances and services, and in all our providential experiences. Every Sabbath, what a blessed memorial! How does it remind us of the great Creator, and of His resting from all His works! how of our own rest in Him and in heaven! There is likewise that holy rite and service which the Lord Himself appointed with His dying breath as the sacramental emblem of His love. This is the most perfect of all the testimonies: a perpetual representation of the sacrifice before the Church, for the benefit of the faithful, for the conviction of all; a perpetual application of it, through the power of the Spirit, to the believer’s heart and soul. And our faithful Church, in all her constitution and services, has acted upon this monitory plan; has sought to stir up continually the pure minds (of her children) by way of remembrance; and to keep the wonders of Divine grace, one after another, always before our eyes. At various seasons of the year she sets before us the marvellous acts of redeeming love, all that Jesus has done and suffered on our behalf: the mystery of His holy incarnation; His holy nativity and circumcision; His baptism, fasting, and temptation; His agony and bloody sweat; His cross and passion; His precious death and burial; His glorious resurrection and ascension, and the coming of the Holy Ghost. And besides her faithful dealing on these great occasions, she is continually bringing to view other objects also, other tokens of love, other means of grace, of high importance to be borne in mind and diligently observed. The lives and deaths of her apostles and martyrs are set in order, as so many patterns of righteousness, so many beacons of grace, etc. And there are other dealings of God with us to be treasured in the memory; the mercies of His providence and of His grace experienced in our own persons. We have been cast on a bed of sickness; who raised us up? in danger, who delivered us? in the deep of affliction, who sent the Comforter? We have sinned: we have been alarmed; we repented, prayed, promised, and were spared; and should not that holy season, should not all these days of grace, be kept in mind? Let us not unfrequently shut up the busy present, and muse upon the solemn past. God give us grace to deal faithfully; to prize the privileges, to look upon the blessings showered down upon us, to keep them in grateful remembrance, and so fix our affections upon the one thing needful. (J. Slade, M. A.)

Questions and answers

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 the 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 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. Then we could 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. In the next place, still following the idea laid down by Moses, we must make this answer definitely personal:--“thou shalt say unto thy son” (Deuteronomy 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. 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 he 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 present relations 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. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Children’s questions

Children often break upon their parents with very tough questions, and questions that wear a considerable looking towards infidelity. It requires, in fact, but a simple child to ask questions that no philosopher can answer. Parents are not to be hurried or flurried in such cases, and make up extempore answers that are only meant to confuse the child, and consciously have no real verity. It is equally bad if the child is scolded for his freedom; for what respect can he have for the truth when he may not so much as question where it is? Still worse, if the child’s question is taken for an evidence of his superlative smartness, and repeated with evident pride in his hearing. In all such cases a quiet answer should be given to the child’s question where it can be easily done, and where it cannot, some delay should be taken, wherein it will be confessed that not even his parents know everything. Or, sometimes, if the question is one that plainly cannot be answered by anybody, occasion should be taken to show the child how little we know, and how many things God knows which are too deep for us--how reverently, therefore, we are to submit our mind to His, and let Him teach us when He will what is true. It is a very great thing for a child to have had the busy infidel lurking in his questions, early instructed in regard to the necessary limits of knowledge, and accustomed to a simple faith in God’s requirement, where his knowledge fails. (H. Bushnell.)

Let the Bible speak

The mother of a family was married to an infidel, who made a jest of religion in presence of his own children; yet she succeeded in bringing them all up in the fear of the Lord. I one day asked her how she preserved them from the influence of a father whose sentiments were so openly opposed to her own. She answered: “Because to the authority of a father I did not oppose the authority of a mother, but that of God. From earliest years my children have always seen the Bible upon the table. This Holy Book has constituted the whole of their religious instruction. I was silent that I might allow it to speak. Did they propose a question; did they commit any fault; did they perform any good action; I opened the Bible, and the Bible answered, reproved, or encouraged them. The constant reading of the Scriptures has alone wrought the prodigy which surprises you.” (A. Monod.)

The significancy of the Jewish passover

The ordinances of Israel were the ordinances of a redeemed people, and they were the signs and memorials of the fact of their redemption. Selecting the passover, then, as the most prominent of these ordinances, let us inquire what it was designed to teach.

1. In the first place, we see in it a memorial of Divine sovereignty. Could the Jew look back upon the history of his forefathers, and doubt that it was not their own might nor their own wills that carried them forth from the land of tears?

2. Again, we see in it a memorial of Divine goodness and truth. It was a promise that God would not forget, that Abraham’s seed should inherit the land of Canaan; and now that he was in possession of all this, was it not well that Abraham’s child should be reminded of what had been done for him? In the passover, then, he learned how true and gracious the Lord had been to him and to his fathers. What would he trace but mercy and faithfulness in all His ways?

3. These were the aspects of the ordinances as they looked Godward; but there were others which reminded him of his own personal position. Could the Jew, for example, forget the Egyptian yoke, as he stood up, year after year, his loins girded and staff in hand, to eat the Lord’s passover? Is it not a little remarkable, that though they have lost the Sacrifice, this is the only ordinance the Jews celebrate to this day? Even in a strange land, and at such an interval of time, they fail not to call to remembrance the bondage of Pharaoh. How often does God set this before His people in the course of His dealings with them! “Thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt.” He frequently reminds them. He would have kept them in a due subordination, that they might not be lifted up to their own destruction.

4. But we see in the passover, lastly, a memorial of present deliverance. As long as the Jew could celebrate it in his own land, he was reminded of his deliverance from Egypt. In this respect the redemption of Israel from the house of bondage has been always a present blessing. As a nation, and therefore as a type of the Christian Church, they have never been enslaved a second time in Egypt. Once delivered, they were delivered forever from that bondage. Most truly, therefore, could the Jewish parent teach his son--“We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt.” That was a past history of terrible suffering and disgrace, and the remembrance of it could call up nothing in the heart of a faithful Jew but thankful, peaceful joy. The passover, consequently, was eminently a joyous festival; it was a feast upon a sacrifice; it was a celebration of Divine mercies, and of the entire destruction of the Egyptian yoke. And is not the Christian ordinance and history a counterpart of this? (W. Harrison, M. A.)

The Lord brought us out of Egypt.--

Deliverance from Egypt

It has been said that the earth is but the shadow of heaven, and that things therein are each to other like, more than on earth is thought. This may be a great truth, for in the Scriptures earthly things are used as types and symbols of heavenly. It is so in the words that I have read to you. Egypt was the symbol of captivity, darkness, and death; and the land of promise, the type of heaven, where there is freedom, light, and life without end. And so, the deliverance of the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt by the mighty hand of God, and their entrance into the land of Canaan, are typical of our deliverance from the bondage of sin and the devil, and entrance into the kingdom of heaven, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Hence we shall consider these words: first in their literal sense; and, secondly, in their spiritual meaning.


I.
First, we shall consider these words in their literal sense. Nearly four thousand years ago, a period soon after the deluge, Egypt appears to have had its kings and princes, and to have been great as a kingdom of this world. Nor is it only remarkable for its antiquity, but also for its physical phenomena, its worldly wisdom, its idolatry, and its monuments. It was peopled by the descendants of Ham, and was dedicated to him, and therefore, from the earliest times, in the hieroglyphics and Scripture, it was called “the land of Ham.” Now Ham, as a deity, was reverenced as the sun, and no doubt he was the sole introducer of the worship of the sun after the deluge. That Egypt was addicted to sun-worship there can be no doubt; for it is not only seen in the hieroglyphics or sacred writings, but also by means of several of its most ancient names. The theology of Egypt, however, being so closely connected with astronomical principles, underwent as many changes as the planets themselves. Hence it is that there are so many and various opinions upon it. One thing is clear, that they paid great honours to brute animals, and employed them as representatives of their deities. Thus God manifested His power, and mercy, and faithfulness. His power in delivering a defenceless people from the oppression of one of the greatest military nations of the ancient world; and His mercy in giving them the land of Canaan; and His faithfulness in performing the oath which He sware unto Abraham, that He would give them.


II.
We shall now consider the spiritual meaning of the words of our text. And here it will assist us very much to know that Egypt had several names; and we have found, after much research, that under whatever name we contemplate this land of spiritual darkness, we perceive the same root and source of post-diluvian idolatry--Ham associated with the sun; and along whatever line we pursue our investigations in the etymology of this land of spiritual wickedness, we arrive at the same goal. Here let us learn a lesson on worldly wisdom and human power.

1. Egypt was the mother of learning and of gross idolatry; of worldly light and spiritual darkness. It was sacred for a time to the physical sun, the source of light and life in the natural world; but it will be forever an emblem of darkness and death. It reared its pyramidical temples to the sun, symbolising its worldly greatness and light; but it was as full of darkness and dead men’s bones as the pyramids themselves. In human language, Egypt, with its various names, means light; in the language of heaven, darkness; in the language of earth, life and fruitfulness; but in the language of heaven, death and corruption. Hence it is that Egypt in the Scriptures symbolises the present world. It was the source of worldly wisdom and gross idolatry. The Egyptians, professing themselves to be wise, became fools; for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. We read the wisdom of this world in the ruins of Egypt, Assyria, Palestine, Greece and Rome. The kingdoms of this world may build their nests in the rocks, as the Kenite of old; nevertheless they shall be wasted, and their palaces shall be for beasts to lie down in.

2. Egypt is synonymous with the world, and we know that the world is enmity against God. Let us, therefore, cast off the world, and its Egyptian darkness, and its enmity to God and truth. Let us turn from the world, so full of error, darkness, folly, and death; let us come out of it; let us walk worthy of our high calling; let us walk as children of light and children of the day. Now the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage was typical of our deliverance from sin and Satan. We know very well how great the oppression of Egypt was. We know that their cries pierced the clouds, and found their way to the throne of God, and He came down to deliver them; and He accomplished this by His own power, and wisdom, and mercy, and gave them the land of Canaan, and a code of Divine laws. Now this faintly shadows forth the deliverance of all mankind from the slavery of sin and the devil, than which a more cruel slavery never oppressed the family of man. Our text admits a still higher development, namely, that the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan was typical of the entrance into heaven of all true believers. Of that glorious place, the brightest scenes of earth are but shadows dim and dark. The Israelite in Egypt never looked to the land of Canaan with the earnest longing of the disciples of Jesus for the heavenly Canaan; and why? Our title to it is clearer. It is our heavenly inheritance, purchased for us with the precious blood of Christ; and it is kept for us by the power of God through faith. We dwell on earth; but our heart and our life are there, hid with Christ in God. (A. Jones.)

Verse 23

Deuteronomy 6:23

He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in.

The outbringing and the inbringing of Israel

There were many things in the history of ancient Israel which repeat themselves in the history or experience of the Christian Church. Our text may be regarded as--

1. God’s answer to man’s question: What is the meaning of human life? Everywhere we see beginnings and advances, but where are the issues or ends? Human life in general has its beginnings or outgoings, but who can foresee its incomings? We may regard human life as a promise or as a prophecy, but to many it is also an insoluble problem. Throughout the kingdom of nature we find everything comparatively plain. We find nothing of the nature of chance or caprice. Certain causes are invariably followed by certain definite effects. “From the greatest planets to the tiniest plants, all things are under the operation of fixed laws. Everything comes to pass in its time, and with all the beauty of that “order which is heaven’s first law.” Things in the natural world are thus ordered in all things and sure. Are they not equally so before God in the moral and spiritual worlds? Verily He knows all our outgoings and incomings, our sittings down and risings up; He is entirely acquainted with us in all our ways. He knows the end from the beginning in every case. There are no accidents with Him, and He is never taken by surprise. God has no new thoughts, and He makes no new discoveries; the darkness and the light are both alike to Him always.

2. This reveals God’s purpose. God’s purposes may be far beyond the scope of human vision, but they are fixed as the laws of the material universe; they may lie far beyond the hills and mountains of man’s higher thoughts and best conceptions, but they are realities and pregnant with good, and they are always being fulfilled in the experience of His own people. God has done something that man might do something else, and that something else man must either do or perish. What has God done?

3. God’s work. “He brought us out from thence.” It was not Moses that brought them out. Moses himself was only a weak instrument. In wisdom he might be greater than Lycurgus, in skill greater than Alfred, in efficiency more powerful than Cromwell, in patriotism greater than Washington; but the work to be done required Divine wisdom and power. Moses was an efficient agent because God’s Spirit was in him to will and to do as God required.

4. Man’s work. Man must ever be regarded as left to the freedom of his own will, for he was so created. When God completed the work of creation, He said in effect, “It is finished. Take the earth, Adam, as I have made it; till it, and live on it; make the best of it; have dominion over it.” When God completed the work of man’s redemption on the Cross, He said, “It is finished. Take it, ye children of men, and work out your own salvation.” When God took the Hebrews out of Egypt, He said in effect, “Follow My servant Moses through good and evil report, and I’ll take you into the land which I sware unto your fathers.” In other words, God promised to save them only if they were willing and obedient. But alas l they were neither willing nor obedient, and hence we read, “they entered not in, because of unbelief.” They were willing to go out, because of their bitter bondage, but they were not willing to go on because of the trials and sorrows of the wilderness. They were discouraged because of the way.

5. The Hebrews were a typical people--

(1) Of true believers. Those who went out and went on and went into the land were typical of those who with the heart believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are willing to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. They have tested His promises and His character in the alembic of their own Christian experience; they have weighed His claims in the balances of Christian thought and meditation until the fire burned within them, and they felt “unspeakably obliged” to go after Him; and so they “press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Their faith and love and religion being alike practical they work towards purity, progress, and perfection.

(2) Of unbelievers. Those of the Hebrews who entered not in because of unbelief, typify those who in every age confound their life with their limbs and their souls with their senses. These sceptics must ever be as “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” even in this world. Success, even in this world, implies a high ideal--faith, indomitable energy, and perseverance. With these, men even of average mental powers will succeed, and without them they must abide in the wilderness of circumstances. While holding by the Bible doctrine of Divine sovereignty, we also hold by the fact that God helps those who help themselves. Only hardships can make hardy men. Brave soldiers and good sailors are manufactured by forced marches, wars, and through storms. The best and bravest men become perfect through suffering. (J. K. Campbell, D. D.)

Profit and loss

Israel, brought out of Egypt, for awhile wandered in the wilderness. But they were not left in the wilderness; it was no part of God’s purpose to leave them there; He brought them out from the house of bondage that He might give them the land large and good.


I.
The text has direct teaching for us when the Divine Spirit leads us out of the carnal life. “He brought us out from thence.” The redeeming God finds us in the Egypt of the fleshly, mind and the worldly life; finds us under a harsh, debasing rule; finds us full of bitterness; and by His good Spirit He moves us to go forth to a freer, brighter life. Let us be sure that we permit Him to bring us thoroughly out of the sordid, sensual past. To a large extent it was the ruinous mistake of Israel that they never truly and fully got out of Egypt. They remembered it too frequently, they talked about it too much, they recalled far too often and too vividly its coarse pleasures. Conversion, regarded etymologically or Scripturally, means a total change, an emphatic turning of the back on the far country, the steadfast setting of the face to Jerusalem. See to it that you cast no lingering look behind; drop the entangling friendships, the compromising habits, the unseemly tempers of the old guilty, godless life. But be absolutely sure that if you heartily renounce the carnal life God will bring you into a rich inheritance. The first experiences of the wilderness were very strange to the Israelites. All their habits of life had been suddenly changed: they had lost the leeks without getting the pomegranates; and in those days of transition they became impatient and disobedient. Had they persevered a little all would have come gloriously right. It is often thus with newly-converted men and women; there is an intermediate state in which the old world has been renounced, and in which the new world has not been realised, and this intermediate state is full of peril to the pilgrim soul. Wait, trust, hope, persevere, and the inheritance shall grow upon you. It is grand enough to be worth a little waiting for. We are all familiar with a certain class of emigrants who go forth with rosy expectations to distant lands, and who soon return utterly disappointed. In starting the higher life we have need of patience, patience that will not make us ashamed. Following on to know the Lord, new interests will spring up, new friendships will inspire, new hopes will dawn, new activities absorb and delight, new charms will disclose themselves in work and worship, new and richer meanings will shine through all things.


II.
The text is a message for us when the Divine providence suddenly and radically changes our circumstances. Life is continually changing, but in some periods its whole aspect is changed by some unexpected event, and we go out as Israel went out of Egypt, as their father went out not knowing whither he went. Some event occurs breaking up the business which seemed so well established, and the merchant driven from his old anchorage is in fear of quicksands amid strange waters. The working man with the least ceremony is discharged from the berth in which he has been able to secure for himself and others daily bread, and in the crowded labour market must find himself a fresh job as best he may. We are familiar with facts like these in this world of vicissitude, but who can express all the uncertainty and solicitude and sorrow they imply? It is a time of peculiar exposure, suffering, and peril to the creatures of the sea who have shed their old shell, and not yet got a new one; and birds of passage often perish in multitudes on their journey from one land to another. So the Christian, turned out of his nest, stripped of his shell, experiences a phase of life full of peril to faith and temper and character. The disruption of our circumstances is frequently followed by serious and even fatal moral and religious consequences. But be sure that if you fear God and follow His leading He has brought you out of the familiar life that He may give you a richer inheritance. “When one door shuts another opens.” But you say, “Will the door that opens, open upon a situation as pleasant as the old?” It may open upon one a great deal better. Most men who have found their way to fortune owed their success to the fact that some door or other was once slammed in their face; but even should the opening door open on a more sombre situation, be sure that it opens up to you possibilities of far grander character and experience. I say, then, if God is leading you out of the old set of associations, do not be afraid; He is preparing you for something better, preparing something better for you. When God brought the Pilgrim Fathers out of this country they tasted to the full the bitter sorrows of dispossession; for dreary months they were tossed in the Mayflower, and then found it hard work to get foothold upon the strange coast. But in due time God brought them into the good land, giving them liberty of conscience and all else that makes life worth living. Whatever else may come to pass you shall finally acknowledge that disinheriting you, transporting you, God has brought you into a deeper faith, a stronger character, and set your feet in a large place of moral wealth and spiritual blessing.


III.
The text is full of encouragement as though the Divine grace we pass into a new year. Time is even a greater leader than Moses, conducting us out of the familiar into the unknown. “We attempt to settle ourselves in what we conclude to be a fairly happy condition of things, to adjust our ideas, interests, and hopes to a fixed and permanent environment, but it is all in vain. But let us not repine. He brings us out from thence that He may bring us in to give us the land. Dispossessed so many times, it is that we may be made meet for an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Sir Samuel Baker writes in his diary as he penetrates the great unknown land, “It is curious in African travel to mark the degrees of luxury and misery; how one by one the wine, spirits, bread, sugar, tea, etc., are dropped like the feathers of a moulting bird, and nevertheless we go ahead contented.” And despite the fact of their constantly dropping the conveniences of civilised life they might well go ahead contented, for were not their eyes every day looking upon the wonders of a new land of surpassing wealth and splendour? Our earthly losses are richly compensated in the growing wealth of our spirit. Let us take care that by our discontent and unbelief and disobedience we do not permit some painful and perilous hiatus to come between the losses of the material life and the accessions of the grace and glory of the higher life; let us grow into the diviner as we grow out of the coarser.


IV.
The text has gracious consolation for us when the Divine Will ends this mortal life. We do not take kindly to that last dispossession. “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.” We cannot take out as much as Israel took out of Egypt. But let not our faith fail us. He brings us out from this terrestrial life that He may bring us into the celestial. Cicero tells of a prisoner who had always lived in prison; he had never once seen the outer world. And so when he had become an old man, and they began for some reason or other to pull down the walls of his prison, he broke into bitter lamentings because they would destroy the little window through whose bars he had got the only bit of light that had ever gladdened his eyes. He did not understand that the falling of the walls would let him into a broad, bright world, would open to him the wide glories of sun and sky and summer. And so when we see the body sinking ruinous in decay it seems as if we were about to lose everything, forgetting that the senses are but the dim windows of the soul, and that when the body of our humiliation is gone the walls of our prison-house are gone, and a new world of infinite light and beauty and liberty bursts upon us. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Coming back again

We are face to face with a great providential plan. Men do not go out and in by haphazard if they be wise men, true in heart, obedient in will. There are no outlying provinces and colonies on which the Sovereign’s eye does not rest. We must not bring ourselves out. How prone man is to do this! He will handle himself. It is comforting, it is self-elevating, it has a look of business and energy about it; as who should say, I am awake, I will do this with mine own hand. Why bring yourselves out? You cannot take yourselves back again. A continual restraint of the appeals and voices and seductions that would carry us from the providential way is part of the discipline of life. Do not take yourselves out of anything; for God’s sake and your own, let your lives alone. If you are always taking up the tree to see whether it is growing you will make growth impossible. Only when God brings us out will God bring us in. We are too much given to tempting God, saying, We will make a bad bargain, and ask God to complete it and make it up to us as if we had done nothing foolish; we will adventure ourselves down this unfamiliar road ten miles, and when we find we are on the wrong path we can begin to pray. Why will not men look at both ends of a covenant, an arrangement, or action? Give your whole life every day, and every hour, and every moment, to God, saying, “Jesus, still lead on”; saying, Except Thy presence, Thou covenant God, go with me, take me not up hence: I weary for something else, I pant for some new opportunity; but if it be Thy will that I should not go, then make me glad, if not with rapture, yet with quiet content of soul. God brought His people out of bondage that He might bring them into liberty. Bondage is a large word, signifying a large experience, and signifying also an experience that is necessary--that is to say, an essential part of any true solid and perpetual growth. We are all in the bondage of littleness. God is continually leading us out of littleness that He may bring us into largeness. We shall know whether God brought us out of our littleness by the largeness into which we have entered. If our charity is larger, if our impulses are nobler, if our prayers take upon themselves a new grandeur of desire, then know that it was God, whose key turned the lock, it was God whose voice called us out of our dwarfed estate into largeness of manhood. There is a bondage of darkness, a bondage of bigotry, a bondage of thinking that we are the people, and the temple of the Lord are we; and all people who do not go with us are wrong, benighted, and foolish. God will lead us out of these misconstructions of others that He may lead us into a true appreciation of our brethren. Sometimes God leads us out of wealth that He may lead us into it. If God takes away our wealth He means to give us more and more; if God is at the beginning of Job’s distresses He will be at the completion of Job’s fortunes; if Job shall take the case into his own hands he shall fight it with his own hand, but if God begin to strip him and to bruise him we must wait until the latter end comes and then interpret the purpose and the scheme of heaven. Things must not be judged in their fermenting processes; they must be judged when God says concerning each of them, It is finished. God brings us out of youth that He may bring us into manhood. That is His purpose. Youth itself is good and beautiful, excellent, but not enough. God leads us out of the letter that He may bring us into the spirit. Most of us are prisoners of the letter. At the first it is necessary that literal bondage should test us; but we are not under God’s guidance fully and consentingly unless we are daily growing away from the letter--not to make the letter a stranger or to isolate ourselves from it, but growing away from the letter as the edifice grows away from the foundation, and as the tree grows away from the root; not leaving it, but carrying it up to higher significance, into blossom and fruitfulness. We have a familiar saying amongst us which is not true; we say of certain things, “As easy as A B C!” Now there is nothing in all literature so hard as these letters; there is no reading in all the world so hard as the alphabet. It is in the alphabet that we find the difficulty; the years will come and go, and then the mechanical will be forgotten, because we have entered into a spiritual consciousness, and now everything that is mechanical and arbitrary is under our feet; we are masters of that department of the situation. It is even so with God’s Book; it is even so with God’s own Son. The Apostle Paul says, “Henceforth we know no man after the flesh, yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we Him no more.” The reader does not know the alphabet in the sense of that alphabet being an irritation or an exasperation to him. He knows it so well that he is not conscious of knowing it. Thus the letter may be translated into the spirit; thus the creating Hand and the redeeming blood may be carried up into what is called the Holy Ghost--the final, the eternal Personality. Have ye received the Holy Ghost? God thus leads us out of law that He may bring us into grace. The law is hard, the law is graven on stone or written in iron. We must pass through that school of the law, we must obey; but obedience makes law easy and gracious. “Practice,” we say, “makes perfect.” That little maxim has its application to things spiritual; doing the will, we learn the doctrine; obeying the law, we come into the grace. We shall know how far we have grown in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ by the ease and the delight which we realise in obedience and service and sacrifice. God has led some of you out, and you do not know where to. There is no need for you to know. Let God alone. Did He place you where you are? Have you reason to believe that you are in your providential position? Then stop there. But by taking one step across the road I could do wonders! So you may: how long will the wonders last? What are these yellow wonders, these rocket blazes of earth? Better have a crust with God than try to banquet on the wind. How sweet it is to realise the providence of life; how comforting to know that everything we say, think, or do, is of consequence to God! (J. Parker, D. D.)

The eternal purpose

A glance at the text will suffice to show that the honour of Israel’s redemption, from beginning to end, is due to Israel’s God. No mention is made of any other power; God and God alone is responsible for Israel. ‘Twas He that brought His people out, ‘twas He also that led them in. So may it be with us, for our salvation, too, is of the Lord. The other thought is almost as manifest, namely, that God’s redemptive work, from its initial stage to its glorious consummation, is a scheme or plan which He conceived in His loving heart, and wrought out by His mighty hand. It is not the result of haphazard, nor of casual thought. It is no experiment, no afterthought, but the outcome of a settled and unalterable purpose. “He brought us out, that He might bring us in.”


I.
Salvation is of God. Israel’s redemption, from first to last, was Jehovah’s doing. Notice this, will you, that the Lord our God in the matter of our salvation both brings us out and brings us in. From Him we received our first convictions; ‘tis He that wakes within the slumbering soul the earliest desire for better things. And just as certainly as that God works in us those earliest aspirations and desires, so certainly does He crown the work at last.

1. Note, first, that He brings us out. How was it with these people in the early days? We have here a short record of their wonderful experience. “We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt.” “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” They would have tarried still among the brick kilns if the Lord had not interposed on their behalf. He heard their cry. The things that accompany our salvation are not less remarkable than the wonders God wrought in the land of Ham. He has had pity, and shown His mighty power to us-ward. His compassions have not failed in our case, and He has wrought miracles that eclipse altogether the wonders that Zoan saw.

2. Equally true is it that He brings us in. Canaan was a long way from Egypt, but the Lord had determined to do the work thoroughly. It was not enough to cross the Red Sea, nor even to pass the desert; the chosen people must ford the Jordan, and enter the promised land. Oh, believe me, the Lord is prepared to do just this in the realm of spirituals for all His believing people. Whom He justifies them He also sanctifies, and whom He sanctifies them He also glorifies. He is all our salvation and all our desire. At the first He gives us by His Spirit all needed grace that we may come repentingly, look believingly, and go on our way rejoicingly. ‘Tis He produces joy, and peace, and hope, and love.


II.
And this salvation is the result of planning. God’s purpose and God’s power go together. As I have told you already, there was a scheme at the back of this. They did not happen or come to pass by chance; they were all devised and designed by the loving Father. I do not think that we should marvel particularly at this. We ourselves have plans and purposes. They do not always come off, it is true; too often we fail to see what we have hoped to view, and our best laid plans deceive and disappoint us. Not so with God; all that He arranges for surely comes to pass, for His power and His purpose go hand in hand. Now apply this to our case and to spiritual things.

1. Thank God there was a loving thought in His dear heart. I know not when it first sprang up. God has never been aught but love, and I cannot conceive that there could ever have been a time when He had not set His heart upon the salvation of men whom He would yet create, and who He knew would sin. You do not wonder either, that, having such a thought in His heart toward us, it found expression in words.

2. The gracious promise proclaimed the loving purpose.

3. Then came the mighty deed, the baring of his arm, the showing of His mighty power, the deliverance of His people from the heel of the tyrant--a deliverance so complete that they did not leave so much as a hoof behind them. Not they and their children merely, but their cattle and their chattels were all delivered from the house of bondage.

4. Then began the ceaseless care of Jehovah towards His people. He did not lead them over the Red Sea that He might forsake them in the desert, nor did He conduct them across the desert that He might see them drown in the Jordan. No, no! He led them all the way; nothing interfered with His purpose; there were obstacles, but He overcame them. He did not bring them out from Egypt merely as a demonstration of His power; as one of the great powers, for instance, will make a naval demonstration, and secure a certain result, and then it is all past and over. This was only the first step and stage in the glorious process of complete deliverance for Israel, and of the fulfilling of a gracious promise ratified by oath to Abraham. He did not bring them out that He might slay them in the wilderness, as the enemies of Israel insinuated when they heard how He punished them. Certainly He did not bring them out that they might go back again, as they themselves, alas! were prepared to do when they got into difficulties. Grace is glory in the bud. (Thomas Spurgeon.)

Verse 24

Deuteronomy 6:24

The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes.

The moral significance of God’s laws

The doctrine of this text is that God’s laws are for the good of His subjects; that the basis of all His laws is benevolence; that their foundation is love.


I.
This fact is well attested.

1. In the nature of the commands.

2. In the experience of His subjects. The loyal have ever been the happiest.


II.
This fact reveals the divine character.

1. Unbounded love.

2. Complete wisdom.

3. Absolute independence.


III.
This fact explains the condition of all human happiness. What is it? Not the search for it as an end. “He that seeketh his life shall lose it.” Obey, because it is right to obey the Infinitely Holy and the Supremely Good. (U. R. Thomas.)

Obligation, nature, and advantages of religion


I.
The obligation of religion. “The Lord commanded us.”

1. The will of God is the proper ground of moral obligation.

2. The will of God, as made known to us, is the statement and rule of religion.


II.
The particular nature of religion.

1. “To fear the Lord our God”--the mind constituted so as that certain affections may be produced by certain objects. The true knowledge of God will produce reverence, admiration, and dread. At first this, with a deep sense of guilt, will be the spirit of bondage unto fear. When the Spirit of adoption is received the fear is filial, reverential, producing hatred to sin.

2. “To do all these statutes.” Religion is to be practical and external, as well as experimental and internal.

(1) It is not talking about the Divine laws, but doing them.

(2) It is not doing what we please, but the commands of God.

(3) It is not selecting such as we prefer, but doing “all these statutes.”

(4) It is not doing them carelessly, but with due thought, observe.

(5) It is not doing them formally or to please man, but in reference to God Himself; “before the Lord.

(6) Obedience is not to be in opposition to the covenant of mercy, but connected with it; “before the Lord our God.”


III.
Value and advantages of religion.

1. “It shall be our righteousness.” Mercy comes only through merit and intercession of Christ. Is at first received only by faith. Still, He is Author of eternal salvation only to them that obey Him. For Christ’s sake continued obedience to the law of our dispensation is the channel of continual acceptance.

2. “For our good always.” We enjoy the favour of God, and the light of His countenance is our happiness. His providence takes care of us. His glory will receive us. (G. Cubitt.)



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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Deuteronomy 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/deuteronomy-6.html. 1905-1909. New York.