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No subject can he more deeply interesting to the saint than the nature and effect of that discipline which our God, in the plenitude of His love and wisdom, administers to His people.

Interesting as the subject is, and one so necessary to the secret exercises of the soul, yet it is little understood; and the dealings of God are either counted strange, or wanting in any just or useful solution.

I propose, therefore, with the Lord's help, to present, in a series of papers, the peculiar discipline -- its object and its effect, detailed to us, respecting each distinguished witness for God on earth.

I am induced to do this, in order to lead the minds of saints to study more a subject which of all others connects us most with the secret, loving thoughts of our God about us.

I accordingly begin with Adam. Though not properly heading the life of faith, yet he was the subject of severe discipline, and a remarkable illustration of its effects. Adam at one time needed no discipline -- a state unknown to any since. When he fell, the day of discipline began. He who was made in the image of God, who approached nearer to God than any creature, even he, is now imbued with a spirit and a nature so adverse to God, that if he would live for God he must learn to renounce his own will, under the training of the mighty hand of God. To Adam this must have been a strange contrast to the once easy

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acquiescence of his mind with the will of God. Consequently he must have felt it the more; and as the rebellion of his heart was being subdued, he must have contrasted the rule of God with the powerlessness of innocence. As innocent, he fell; as fallen, the hand of God exalts him -- not ignorantly nor passively, but in all the activity of anxious conviction. Innocence with him was a weak thing; the power of God subduing his nature no longer innocent was a great and mighty thing. He never would have sought the innocent state again, for he knew how weak it was. He knew now that he was able to do more with the power of God in a fallen state, than in unassisted innocence he ever could aspire to. As innocent, he had no sense of the value of life; as fallen, yet believing in the revelation of God, he could now name the only creature he had yet named, the mother of all living. Under the sentence of death, he could speak of life, while as innocent, his penalty (if disobedient) was the loss of life. Innocence could have had no charm for him now. True, it was a moment of wondrous bliss; but it was a condition in which he could not stand; and under God's discipline, he stands morally higher, though conditionally lower. Adam was not deceived, but he was influenced. He early discovers the sensibilities of nature, which eventually led to his fall. Neither the world nor its glory, nor any class of the inferior creatures, can supply the craving of the sociable heart of Adam: for him there was not found an helpmeet, and it was "not good for him to be alone". The instincts of his nature were not satisfied; but when the one who satisfied them was deceived, he yields to her influence, as he himself admits: "She gave unto me, and I did eat". The first man disclosed this secret of his heart, that he was dependent on another; so that when Satan would not venture to beguile him, the object of his affections successfully influenced him. Now they have discovered themselves to be estranged from God, and they hide from His presence; but now it is that the first lessons of His grace are propounded to them.

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In discipline there is properly conviction of sin, as well as correction. Chastening or correction while there is suffering for sin is to make me a partaker of holiness. It is not to improve my nature, but so to convince me of its utter helplessness that I may be devoted unto God, which is the true and distinct meaning of sanctification, "without which no man shall see the Lord". There is exceeding pain in being convicted of sin: and if there be not a strong sense of the grace of God when we are convicted, there will be great depression, and a tendency to give up all in despair. Hence the exhortation, "Faint not when thou art convicted [Greek] of him". God does not convict hastily. He likes that, through the action of His word on our conscience, we may be the first to convict ourselves. It is very little use to tell a vain man of his faults; it generally only urges him the better to conceal or extenuate them. It is very difficult to induce a person in ill-health and unconvinced of it, to adopt the necessary regimen; the more you remonstrate with such a one, the more strenuously will he endeavour to prove you mistaken, and you exasperate the malady you would assuage, but the really sin-convicted soul, like the patient tremblingly alive to his danger, is ready to receive every true correction and remedy that is offered.

When Adam had perfected the devices of his estranged and corrupted heart, when the aprons of fig-leaves are on and he hiding behind the trees, the voice of God searches him, although he seeks to escape from it. This is ever the tendency when light from the word first reaches us; we prepare to evade it, like the Pharisees leaving the presence of the Lord; and therefore we are continually allowed to run to the end of our own plans, in order to learn how futile they are. Many a weary hour and long day is squandered in the execution of plans which, when tested by the searching word of God, must be entirely abandoned. What is the nature of such plans? Are they to distance and conceal you from God, or are they to bring you nigh unto Him, and to unfold to Him the minutest secrets of

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your heart? This question tests them. Adam's were to cloak himself to escape the eye of God, and God allowed him to complete his schemes. Oh, how well each of us knows what this is! The poor prodigal tries the far country, but returns to his father's house a really humbled man. The many intentions are well tested and found to be as husks, and then the soul listens to the gracious tones of that voice from which it would fain have escaped. It is a terrible thing to have to answer the question, "Where art thou?" when you find out the insufficiency of all expedients to screen your conscience from the action of God's word. Did the prodigal like to answer it when feeding the swine? Did Peter like to answer it when enjoying the cheer of his Master's foes, in warming himself at their fire? Did Adam like it when he remembered the position which he occupied in contrast with the one which he had forfeited? The answer to the question, "Where art thou?" reveals the state of the conscience. The voice of God searches it, and if it has not learned that it is with God it has to do, the history of it must be, "I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself". Concealment is the first effort of a suffering conscience. You neither like to see yourself, nor that any one else should see you, as you are; and at the sound of God's voice you hide yourself, while concealment betrays distance as well as evasion. There must be some activity in the conscience when concealment is resorted to, especially when no penalty but the fact of your guilt being known is attached to it. Concealment is, in fact, resorted to in order that we may appear better than we are. If we were willing that every one should see us as we are, there would be no concealment A disguise was never yet adopted but for self-exaltation. A lie was never maintained but to gain credit for what is not deserved. When God deals with us, we learn that "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do". The Word (see Hebrews 4.) acts on our conscience, "piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and

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marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart;" but it conducts to God. It is with Him that "we have to do". The voice of the Lord penetrated the soul of Adam; and though girded with fig-leaves, which satisfied his own standard of morality, yet when the Word came, it tried him, and he was afraid, because he was naked -- naked before God -- and he hid himself.

It is important to study those two actions of the conscience; for they give rise to much exercise and trouble in the soul, from being confounded. When a man has satisfied his own conscience, has adopted some system which conceals from himself and from others the real state of his soul, he floats for a while on peaceful waters; but no sooner is the voice of the Lord heard, than all the elements seem to him involved in a mighty tornado. His sleep is broken; he is the convicted Peter of Luke 5:8: he is "afraid". The fact that he is naked and opened before God flashes fearfully before him, and so much the more because he had deceived himself, and his reputation with another had helped it on. The action of the Word of God would be desperate and overwhelming to the soul if we had not a "great High Priest passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God". He having been "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin", supports us with His sympathy as soon as we are, through the action of the word, apart from the SIN, and His atonement, in full effect before God, sets the convicted conscience at rest at the throne of grace, there to receive the grace and mercy it needs. This is just what Adam had to learn; consequently the voice pursues him to his hiding-place. It is in vain that we seek to escape the eye of God when He determines that it shall search us. If we "take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea", even there He will reach us! Oh, how the conscience that seeks escape from God overshadows itself within the foliage of this world! It engrosses itself with man's leading and most ambitious pursuits, but in vain. The "watchers" will cry aloud, "Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, and shake

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off his leaves", (Daniel 4.) The refuge of lies shall be exposed, and the soul must have its account with God. It must answer the question, "WHERE ART THOU?" and all the answer needed is a tale of the plain and simple facts, "I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself". The moment the soul of the saint is in full confession, he is in the region of forgiveness and restoration, and the Spirit expostulates with it as friend would with friend, Adam had tried his own expedients, and they were vain and found to be profitless; now he will listen to the grace that tells of a sure and perfect remedy. But mark! he first discloses the true and full condition of his soul; he confesses his fear -- his nakedness -- his effort to hide himself. Discipline had effected this. Now God instructs him. Adam is "meek", and God will teach him His way. He has learned that innocence was no protection against an undue influence, and that the absence of evil motive is no guarantee for true moral action. He alone knew what innocence was, and yet it had been no safeguard. He was tempted, and he yielded to it. Conscious, indeed, that innocence was gone, and that evil motive could rule, he still trusts to himself to screen and rectify his disgrace. The expedient he adopted satisfied his own moral sense, and, what was infinitely more delusive, the moral sense of the one whose good opinion he loved to secure, and whose satisfaction was a bulwark to his own. This is a snare that few, even godly men, escape. It is, in other words, the reputation with one's friends, pressed on the conscience, as the verdict of the last court of appeal, and conclusive to it, on any recurrence of anxious inquiry. There is a reciprocity in this kind of reputation. What you admit for me, I in return admit for you. If a girdle of fig-leaves measures the demand of your moral sense, and you accept it as sufficient for me, I in return do the same for you. This is the essence and true character of all human and religious reputation. But the voice of God is heard, and Adam is troubled in his false and fallen position. That voice probes the entire condition, and at last he finds himself

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"naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do". He confesses all, and he is now on the uppermost form for instruction, with an humble and a contrite spirit. To the divine challenge he admits, though with an excuse and mitigation, that he was tempted and had eaten. His justification lowers him morally, more than the charge he seeks to justify himself from. Yet it is a confession, and it is accepted as such; and our God enters on the gracious work of unfolding his counsels.

To each actor in this wondrous scene is now meted the judgment due to the part he has played in it. Satan's sentence is first pronounced, and while his doom is fixed, deliverance from his power and the eternal remedy of the gospel is declared to the listening and convicted Adam. It is the divine way, in restoring a soul, to establish it first in the power of God and in His grace. The draught of the fishes and the words of Jesus taught this to Peter; Luke 5. It is the groundwork for all godly recovery. When the heart is established, as David's was when Nathan said, "The Lord has taken away thy sin", then it can bear to hear what is the discipline necessary to correct that in it, which sin could act on. It is important to bear in mind the process by which the Lord reveals to the soul the discipline which He will impose. Whatever has provoked our failure is denounced, not in general terms, but in the proportion, and in the order too, of its guilt; and at the same time the true mode of deliverance is announced. Satan is not only sentenced, but the effect of his malice on man will be his own irremediable retribution. Man shall be avenged of his enemy. The serpent is not only assigned, as a signal judgment, to crawl and to eat dust, in perpetual hostility to the Seed of the woman, but his "violent dealing shall come down on his own pate": his head shall be bruised.

The next brought up for judgment is the woman. She was the proximate cause of Adam's failure; but as the principal had received his sentence, she must now hear hers. She is condemned to times of great sorrow on every

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addition to the human family which she has been instrumental in subjecting to the power of death, with unconditional subjection to her husband, the want of which bore its first-fruits in her own fall, and led to Adam's also. Each transgressor is not only sentenced to a penalty corresponding to his guilt, but the relation in which that guilt has affected Adam is also markedly repaired. God's servant must not be touched with impunity, but he must not err himself. The righteous God will avenge his cause, but only in righteousness. He cannot overlook the frailty of his servant, though he will rescue him when the unmitigated sentence is executed. When God enters into judgment, even-handed justice is dispensed. But acts are criminal in a greater or lesser degree: that which draws God's witness into distance from Him being more criminal in His sight, than the failure which the witness exposes by being drawn into distance. The one who misleads another comes under a severer penalty than he who is misled; though the latter is not exempted because he betrays moral feebleness. The infliction of penalties is not necessarily for correction. There was no hope of amending Satan, but yet severe penalties are inflicted on him because Adam had suffered through him. Man was God's representative on earth; injury to him was treason against God. Hence in divine discipline there is always a correction of the evil principle of nature, and also retribution for the trespass we may have committed on our fellow man. This is exemplified in the sentence on Adam. His sin was yielding to his wife's request in opposition to the word of God. Probably he did not do so with intent; that is, with deliberation. But the word was not hid in his heart, and did not control him; for if it had he would not have hearkened to the voice of his wife. But having surrendered his place, he has to bear the penalty of it, and to become the great slave and labourer on that earth of which he was the ruler and prince. Everything on it would bear indications of insubjection to its rightful master. To assuage the trial he must spend his life in toil in order to live; but in the end he must

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return to dust, as dust he was. There is deeply instructive teaching in all this; even that if we surrender the position in which God places us in any relation, the one we retire to will inevitably notify to us, in fearful reminiscences, what has been our forfeiture. The smallest thorn and briar reminded Adam that he had surrendered his lordship in hearkening to the voice of his wife. If David retire from the duties of the king (2 Samuel 11:1), he must surrender, in a painful way, the honours of one; 2 Samuel 15, etc. He is reminded how lightly he regarded them, by the successful rebellion of his own son. "Cursed be he who doeth the work of the Lord negligently". All the influence of Barnabas would not induce Paul to take Mark who had returned from Pamphylia. The refusal of the apostle reminded him how he trifled with, and abandoned the post once his, but which was easier lost than regained. This is the nature of Adam's discipline. He is reminded by everything of that which he had surrendered, and the less carefully and diligently he laboured to subdue the numerous reminiscences of his failure, the more they increased, and the less able was he to sustain himself against them. By the sweat of his brow he mitigated his position for his own need. David returned, after a severe chastisement, to the throne. Mark was "profitable for the ministry" after the discipline had produced its effect. Faith always walks above discipline, though learning from it. Adam hears the sentence on all, and in faith consenting to it, rises above it, and calls his wife's name Eve, because she is the "mother of all living". Faith reaches unto God, therefore it can submit to the position which judicially falls on an erring soul, and it can look to God for His own time and mode of deliverance. It accepts the punishment of its iniquity, not merely as retribution for it, but as correction. Discipline has in fact produced its greatest effect, when the soul submits to it, as trusting in God. Adam shews this, for in thus naming his wife he makes amends to her for his former reproaches; and what was, in unsubdued nature, the agent of harm to him, is now, in the eye of

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faith, the channel of life. As disciplined and walking in faith, God clothes Adam, yet discipline must not be arrested nor reprieved. God drives him out and sends him to till the ground from whence he was taken, to find out what sort of a man he was, and to learn how his faith would sustain him.

It is in our immediate relations of life in the innermost circle, where there is least reserve, that we most truly disclose ourselves. A man who cannot rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? Power is more effective applied at home than at a distance. If Adam is learning from discipline, it ought to be seen in his power to avoid the evil for which he was suffering. It does not appear that he does; for Eve assumes the place of naming his eldest son, again losing sight of her own place, and doubtless filling her first-born (which his name itself would suggest) with aspirations which led to his fearful contradiction of God's promise, while it was the painful evidence of her own misapprehension of it. There was the devastation of death where life was expected; the fact that one child was murdered and the other the murderer, and that, the one in whom their hopes centred, must have been a trial to Adam which we can little conceive, but it was a discipline which produced its effects; for though it is said that Eve named Seth in the first instance, yet it is also written that Adam called his name Seth, shewing, as it appears to me, that he at length had learned what the discipline was sent to teach him; namely, to act for God, above all influence, and not to allow anything to distract him from the path of faith. He appears to have learned this in the last recorded act of his life; a very pleasing consummation, shewing the effect of discipline, and a very fit and happy finale to his history.

To sum up. We learn from this history that innocence or absence of evil motive is no safeguard against influence; that satisfying our own moral sense, or the moral sense of any one else, is no proof that we can answer, or have answered, to God's claim on us; that if we cease to maintain

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our divinely appointed place we are sure to fall, and the word of God, which would have preserved us in our place, does not act on the heart outside that place; but that in learning what it has been to follow our inclinations, our discipline will always be of a character to correct our failure, and to remind us, in very minute ways, as did the thorns to Adam, what our frailty has reduced us to.


Abel, as the first in faith on whom the penalty of sin was by birth entailed, must be one whose history we may expect to furnish us with outlines of that discipline, which a life eminent for faith would require. It is a mistake, and one which at times causes no little trial to the soul, to conclude, that because any line of truth or grace is strong in me, on that account nature is less assuming. The fact is the reverse; for the more nature is made to feel its fall, the more will it assume; and it is well to understand this. Had nature in its first estate been of any lower order than it was, although the fall could not have lowered it more than it has, yet its aspirations and assumption to escape from the effects of the fall would not have been so violent and daring as they are. The fact of man having been made in the image and likeness of God, gives nature ground for assuming what it has forfeited; and the more it is pressed to feel the immensity of the fall from its once high state, the more it struggles for recognition and assumes importance wherever it can. Hence it is that souls who are really in earnest to deny nature any position are opposed by it at every step, and thus learn practically that they alone who have suffered in the flesh have ceased from sin; that only the cross of Christ frees from the power and thraldom of nature and the world; and to this great moral truth learning death in discipline gives effect through God's grace. We learn that we are dead through the death of Christ, and that we are before God in Him, freed from all

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that was judged in that death. Consequently, the Father's discipline is to lead us into the practical realisation of this our position in Christ; so that we are not only dead in Him, but we reckon ourselves dead, the latter being the practical effect of the former, and discipline is the instrument for accomplishing that effect. The soul that fully learns its acceptance with God, as righteous before Him, is taught it must not be dependent on the nature from that which it is delivered, and outside of which is its existence. The apostle could say that he died daily, bearing about with him the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his body. If our acceptance be veritable -- if it be truly a deliverance from our natural state, ought we not to afford moral and practical evidence of its effect? Nay, must it not be so? For acceptance in righteousness being entirely above and beyond our natural condition, the more the one is enjoyed and maintained, the more the other is lost sight of. And such is the only worthy acknowledgement of this our high position. Can we maintain our natural condition and yet rejoice in deliverance from it? If we rejoice in deliverance, must we not prove it by renunciation of that from which we are delivered?

If Abel be the first witness of acceptance in righteousness, we shall find also that he was the first witness who, as accepted of God, was deprived of his natural life, He was a witness in one as well as in the other. If he testified of acceptance to the joy and rest of his own heart, he by death also testified how true and glorious that acceptance was; so that "he being dead yet speaketh". This is the first order of discipline: "Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed as to sin". This is consequent on our life in Christ; for if living in Him, we ought to be dead in ourselves; and discipline, in its simplest and primary lessons, instructs us in this. There is no saint but must learn what death is; it may be in the slow process of a continual dropping of constant small trials, or through one overwhelming calamity, or perhaps through a last illness: but

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in one way or another death must be learned, in order to make good to our souls their deliverance from it. And without this there cannot be testimony. Abel's history is very scanty in details, but it presents, with a vividness and vigour, not to be surpassed, the two grand points in a believer's life: namely, acceptance with God, and death to every natural tie and sense -- the former being the easy action of faith, the latter declared not willingly, but through violence, consequent on an altered and fallen condition, in an evil world, from which death gave relief. God allows the violence of Cain to afford an opportunity for the display of all this. He thereby declared His own grace, and Himself as the giver of it, while His servant and witness, although disciplined therein as to himself, occupied the highest place of service in the gospel, even that of suffering for righteousness' sake.

Let it then be granted that if I know acceptance well, death is my portion here, and that discipline will not overlook this; for it is what makes the truth of my acceptance dearer to myself, and what witnesses it to others. In this consists the whole interest and instruction of Abel's history. He started in life, as we say, not according to the rule and direction given to Adam -- to till the ground from whence he was taken; Abel, on the contrary, is a keeper of sheep, which discloses at the outset that he had no intention of improving the scene around him, or of deriving from the earth, by his own efforts, anything which would mediate, between him and God. The sense of death and judgment was before his soul, and to be delivered from this could alone satisfy him. As a keeper of sheep he tended his flock, passing from pasture to pasture as their need required. Expecting nothing to spring from the earth to relieve him, no one place on it was his permanent abode. A labourer -- a wanderer, suffering from the curse which rested on everything around him, and he himself under the penalty of death in such a scene, he tended a living flock, which brought him into association with life, the very thing which his own spirit needed. He, therefore, in

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faith took of the firstling of his flock, the beginning and the strength of it, and he offered it to God as God's own, and as typifying the life of Christ; This, as presented to God, met his own sense of death; but something more, than this was needed in encountering the presence of God; there was need of acceptance also. This was met and answered by presenting the fat, which is the excellency of the animal, only obtainable through death; the result in resurrection of the death of Christ, which now satisfies the conscience as to its full acceptance with God. Thus Abel entered into the mind of God as to his own state before Him, and thus he obtained witness that he was righteous, not merely as to what he did, but as to how he stood. Happy as accepted of God, he has to learn the place and the suffering of one so blessed down here. If he be accepted of God, he must be dissociated from a scene which was under God's curse. If he be delivered from the sentence of death, death can be no penalty to him; but he must expect it where everything is contrary to the life in which he is accepted: consequently he is called to give unequivocal proof that acceptance with God and deliverance from judgment are such real blessings that actual death cannot deprive him of them. This is his testimony and this is his discipline. As it was with Stephen, the first martyr of resurrection, so it was with Abel, the first martyr of acceptance. Stephen gave greater evidence in his death than in his life of the virtue of Christ's resurrection, and his soul advanced more into its realities in the moment of his death than it could have done during his lifetime. His last testimony was the brightest. While they, the agents of the world's evil, were stoning Stephen, he was only responding to their fatal blows by consigning his spirit to the One whom they denied and disowned; and what a proof of how perfect and assured he was in Christ's care and charge of him, that he could kneel down to expend all the strength their malignity still spared him in their behalf.

The witness of acceptance and the witness of resurrection has no part in this evil world. Everything must be

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death to him, and in discipline he learns this in order to actualise to himself the greatness of the gift of God, which is eternal life outside and beyond death. In whatever path you may walk you must learn this, that the Father will have it so. He must have the life of His Son true to its proper instincts. Out of "fire of sticks" the viper will remind a Paul that this is a scene of death. It is only from one tomb to another. In a shipwreck yesterday, afflicted by a viper today! We need this discipline. We think we can pass on like other men, enjoying the new and blessed portion we have received; but we cannot. And it is well to understand that the Father will have us to appreciate our portion in His Son, in contrast to everything here. We try in vain to combine both, so that a great deal of our time is spent in learning that there is nothing here to meet the requirements of our new affections. There is a wandering in the wilderness in a solitary way, and yet no city is found to dwell in. But God allows this in order that His children may find that their desires can only be satisfied by Him. We must learn that we are not of the world. We cannot trust it. Christ could not commit Himself to man. Though Stephen have "the face of an angel", yet because he is true to Christ, they will stone him. And though Cain "TALKS" with Abel, and they are "in the field" apparently in easy intimacy, Abel soon learns that he cannot trust him, for in that very social moment Cain rose up against him and slew him.

Our profession declares that we have done with earth. God's discipline will always lead us practically into this, as will also faithful testimony. In our discipline we may give a testimony; but how much better, like Stephen, to be disciplined in our testimony. Surely we ought to lay it to heart how much our discipline arises from clinging to the world in one form or another, instead of on account of our testimony against it. We can easily account for Abel continuing in social nearness to his brother Cain, and justify his doing so, because the hatred of man against the righteousness of God had not as yet been exposed, and

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we can well understand how Abel preserved his easy, familiar ways with his brother, which afforded a more favourable opportunity to Cain to effect his deadly purpose. But while it is easy and natural to account for this, on what ground can we excuse saints for continuing in social intimacy with the world? Can we not often trace the cause and necessity for discipline which many are undergoing to the fact that they who are alive before God in Christ, and who are through His death delivered from all that is of the world, are still clinging to it, instead of testifying against it? The social hour was fatal to Abel, unacquainted as he was with the wickedness of man, and unsuspecting any harm. The social hour now is often morally more fatal to those who ought to know that the prince of this world crucified the Lord of glory, and that the friendship of the world is enmity against God. Do not such need discipline? Must they not be taught that they must surrender all that Christ was judged for? If they do not surrender it through grace, God our Father must, because of His love, sever His children in one form or another from that world from which we are delivered according to His mind by the death of His Son. It is right and fitting so to be. Let us then accept our true place outside the world, and let our discipline be through our testimony rather than our testimony through it.


In the history of Enoch we learn this great truth, that the surest path, and the one which, as to outward circumstances, is the most exempt from discipline, is a life of hope, being by faith translated -- actually in expectation and interest having passed away from this present scene. Enoch, no doubt, had the secret chastenings which every son in our nature needeth, but by faith, as a witness, he walked with God, in the hope of being with Him, and thus he passed beyond death without being a victim to it.

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During his walk of three hundred years, hope placed him beyond this evil scene, and therefore he prophesied as to what would be the consummation of it. If he was the first man who passed out of it through the power of faith, superior to the sovereignty of death, so was he the prophet of the last moments of death's cruel dynasty. If he were the first who was translated from the world, he, in the enjoyment of hope and the domain which it spread out before his soul, could best tell what would be the end of the world. Abel took his place as the witness of acceptance in righteousness, and the world could not endure him; he was unsuited to it, and it to him; he fell, and his blood was shed on it by the hand of his brother. Human righteousness is honoured among men, but righteousness through grace, by faith, honestly maintained, is always abhorrent to man, for it gives him nothing to do, nothing to improve, but to receive all from God and with God, and this necessarily places him in isolation from all human interests. Abel was a righteous man in an evil world, and be found a grave in it -- a terrible death and an unnatural one. Relationship with God only places me in antagonism to the world. If we be sons of God, the world knows us not, as it knew not the Son of God. If in this life, though a son, I only have hope, I am of all men most miserable. Abel must have been happy in his soul with God, but he was miserable in the world, and in the end he suffered a cruel death in it. His very new position entailed this suffering on him; it demanded of him to die to everything around, because if he was righteous, everything around was unrighteous. If he did not by faith walk in hope above this scene, then he must die in it, and this is just where Enoch is a witness of a better thing: and he can prophesy of the accomplished glory, while Abel can but cry, by his shed blood, for a vengeance on a world that would not bear a righteous man!

It is plain that in an evil world a righteous man must either die in it or pass out of it in the power of translation. Enoch did this latter, after he had walked with God.

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Nothing can purify us from this world but hope, and the hope, too, of being with the One whom Enoch saw: "My Lord cometh, and ten thousand of his saints with him". The Lord personally engaging the heart, dissociates more from the earth than anything else. "For their sakes [he says] I sanctify myself, that they also may be truly sanctified". For the heart linked with Him outside the world is the most perfect sanctification. Saints pass through much discipline from outward circumstances, because their hearts are only set on being justified ones in the earth, a blessed position beyond all question; but ours is one incompatible with everything earthly: and hence, if the soul does not own this it must be taught it; thus Paul was taught to surrender Jerusalem and all the associations there his heart clung to. He passed through many afflictions ere he was morally delivered from his earthly hope. Heavenly hopes exposed him no doubt to other sorrows, but death was not one of them, for he longed to depart. If our hope were really translation to see the Lord, beyond doubt the casualties of this life would but little distress us; they never could touch our hope; and our sufferings from present things are not so much from their actual influence or value to us as that they form so great a part of our hopes. It is our hope that lends an interest to everything about us, and belonging to us. The only discipline that Enoch sets forth is a long walk with God and a prophetic testimony, and therefore it is the path that the well-disciplined child will walk in, and the better be adheres to it, the less will he need either a "weight" to be removed, or his unbelief to be admonished, which is the end of all the Father's discipline.


Noah's history is peculiarly interesting, because it affords us a type of the servant of God on the earth, who is testifying to the world of the vanity of everything here by his preparing an ark to get safely out of it. He is in fact

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the head of the new order in moral power. Adam was only a few years dead, as were also Seth and Enoch, and therefore Lamech his father might count on God to send them some "rest" -- some evidence of His care and government. This Noah proved to be; and consequently his life is very instructive to the servants of God. Abel and Enoch were witnesses of principles, but Noah is the witness of God, in a scene where those principles were declared and now disregarded. Noah therefore is God's patient witness and servant in great long-suffering, warning of coming judgment. The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence: all the barriers between clean and unclean were broken down. The children of God intermarried (the most intimate intermixture) with the daughters of men as "they chose". The will was the only guide and the only check to these unhallowed unions. The NAME of God was lost in the earth. The religion of Enoch and the fathers may have remained, but the lines and characteristics which the children of God should observe to preserve His name were now surrendered to the dictation of their own will. Thus in this early day was disclosed that the gratification of our own will, no matter how great we are positionally, will entail our surrender of that testimony to a holy God, which assuredly behoves us in an evil world. Position is valuable if maintained, but aggravates our defection if not; because the higher it is, the less will it bear the slightest defection. A failure which would be unnoticed in a lower position, would be intolerable in a higher. It was necessary to tell Timothy not only to purge himself but also to flee "youthful lusts" or impulses. The will must not come in if the insular position of God's people on the earth is to be maintained. Hence heresy is simply a determined adherence to one's own opinions on any subject. Now this doing as "they chose" was the ruling influence with man at this time, after the departure of Enoch, whose prophecies were unheeded; and God, now in His goodness and forbearance, raises up a testimony for Himself in the person of Noah.

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Noah had been five hundred years upon the earth before he was called to his especial work, and we are told that he was, in his life and age (as generation may be interpreted), a witness of the truths already revealed through Abel and Enoch on the earth. It is said that he was "a just man", or righteous, of which Abel was the witness, and that he "walked with God", which was the great and holy line observed by Enoch. Such is the man who is called to declare the name of God -- that is, what God is, and what God has declared Himself in the world. Principles of truth to bless man had been distinctly witnessed to on earth. Now when all moral obligation to the holiness of God or apprehension of it is relinquished, God comes forth to declare Himself. And His faithful servant devotes himself to trace in new, deep and broad lines the nature of God. God is his object as well as his subject. Man may forfeit and surrender his own dignity and position, and do so beyond remedy: but the truth of God, and what God is, which afforded this dignity and position, cannot be surrendered, but every true servant stands by it and maintains it -- not to repair the human vessel which ought to have preserved it, but to vindicate His name and goodness, which had been lost sight of. When principles are enunciated by God they are for man's blessing, and therefore are peculiarly for men as their object; but when the men who receive them make light of them, so that their beauty and value are marred, then it becomes the servant to resuscitate them -- not as toward men, though they be still for them, but FOR GOD, whose honour is the more paramount, when indifferentism to it prevails. And the more distinctly and vividly they are presented, the more are the careless and unbelieving condemned, but the more are the true servants -- those moral victors -- crowned with honour and blessed. The servant, among such as Noah was surrounded with, had much to learn besides his own acceptance and association with God.

The discipline is suited to the service required. Patience pre-eminently was the great lesson Noah had to learn; but

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it was patience, too, combined with toil. Enoch had patience, but it was in a separated walk. Noah must have it in practical life, dealing not with that which was grateful to him, but with adverse spirits. Enoch escapes from men to walk with God, and is patient therein for three hundred years. Noah has to do with men in daily toil, condemning the world, and is a preacher of the righteousness which by faith he had as believing in God, who was morally denied in it. Instead of comfort from work and toil, as his father Lamech expected, it is work and toil to reach comfort and rest, and toil, too, to condemn the world, on which the curse of God rested. Patiently he worked on, and patience had its perfect work, so far though we shall see later on in his history that his nature betrays the contrary. To arrive at comfort and rest in an evil world, I must patiently maintain the name of God and His truth. We often propose a good and worthy object to our souls, but we little know the trying and toilsome path we must tread to reach it. That Noah was to be a comfort and a rest concerning the work and toil of man's hands was undoubtedly true, though Lamech never lived to see it. He saw it in progress. The purpose to reach a good and desired object modifies greatly intervening difficulties. Noah, while patiently witnessing of the distinctness which ought to mark the children of God on earth, was preparing an ark for the saving of his house, and also condemning the world for their unbelief and denial of God. Let him only be the patient servant, and comfort would accrue to his own house by the very toil in which he was condemning the world for their ignorance of God.

God always honours the servant who honours Him. "Because thou hast kept my word, and not denied my name, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and they shall know that I have loved thee". When God and His truth (at all times as much as has been revealed) have lost their true moral effect on the consciences of men, the only sure and certain means of restoring it, even to one's self, is to declare emphatically, let

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God be true, and every man a liar! I turn from men to bear witness of the truth, for no conscience, after all, can be rightly blessed when God is not presented to it according to the truth. Therefore if truth be fallen in the streets, the valiant for it, like the most valiant One, avow that for this purpose came I into the world, that I might bear witness unto the truth.

After years of discipline and toil, Noah is in the ark. Very often the quality we are most pre-eminent for, and from which we have gained most, becomes inactive, and we suffer much. Noah, doubtless, became impatient to quit the ark after it had accomplished its purpose. In nothing is our impatience or wilfulness so much exposed as here. Noah was a witness of adherence to God's mind, in opposition to the wilfulness of man around him. He toiled for many a year to prepare the ark, and now he is impatient to abandon it, as soon as it has afforded him salvation. God has been vindicated, His truth witnessed to, Noah and his house saved; and now he wants to leave it before it is God's time. It is a greater test to remain in the place of blessing than even to reach it, for many untoward things may induce or press us to seek it, but if the mind be not satisfied, if it be not occupied with the riches of God's inheritance, and in participating with Him according to the joy of His heart in the circle of His delights there, "the leeks and onions" outside invite its attention; the saved and blessed one is in more danger of being drawn aside than the unsecured one -- the will is at work, and the very rest to his conscience affords liberty to his unoccupied mind to seek and plan for itself. The emancipated raven, going to and fro, is an apt emblem of the restlessness of our impatient spirits. The dove reads Noah a different lesson. The raven had taught him the true causes of wilfulness, which he himself had witnessed against, like a dog roaming up and down, and not satisfied. The dove tells first that he must have patience. How humbling when we are rebuked by the weak, gentle accents of confiding love. The dove had a home in the ark, why

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should not Noah? The second time the dove returns with the branch of peace, so that not only must he submit, but patience having had its perfect work, he wants nothing. The olive leaf tells of the fulness of blessing which is his. And when the dove goes forth again she may tarry abroad. Discipline has matured Noah, and he is called into a new scene wherein he is to demonstrate the valuable education afforded to him! he having come forth from the ark in all the vigour and faithfulness of a victorious servant, to set forth God in His proper place on the earth. God is pleased, testimony is restored, and with it increased blessing to man.

After this Noah begins to find rest and comfort for himself. Self-pleasing takes the place of patience, and there and then he exposes the frailty of the greatest servants of God when they seek their own rest and gratification. The going to and fro of thoughts, like the raven, when we are encompassed with still unabated difficulties, may tell us what our propensity is; but when we have succeeded, and we have set ourselves down to enjoy ourselves, our weakness, in its broadest lines, is exposed -- (cursed be he who promulgates it). Though God has long borne with us, He must teach us His grace. If I betray my weakness, when in the excess of my enjoyment, I learn how frail I am; and thus Noah finds how frail he is after all his self-renunciation and service, and with this warning voice his history significantly closes.


The discipline which is necessary and suited to the life of faith is what we shall find pre-eminently exemplified in Abraham's history. Man, at Babel, had disclosed the secret purpose of his heart. He built a city and a tower, whose top was to reach to heaven. He said, "Let us make a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth". He sought to accomplish it by his own works,

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and independently of God. God confounded him in his attempt, and the whole human family is made to feel that it is debarred from intelligent combination by the loss of a common medium of communication, so that man became estranged from his fellow-man; whatever might be his sense of common kindred his thoughts were checked or became incommunicable. When God had thus confounded the independence of man, He, ever true to the purpose of His love, as soon as the evil is checked, unfolds (and by a man too) how that desire which man had aimed at, in independence of God, can be attained in a supreme degree of dependence on God. And this, I may remark in passing, is always His way with us; we feel our need, and attempt to supply it by our own means; the Lord must confound us in the attempt; but having done so, He leads our souls to find and acquire an inconceivably greater answer to our wishes than even that which we had described for ourselves. The prodigal only sought "sustenance" from the citizen in the "far country", but in his father's house he found not bread merely, but abounding welcome and a fatted calf.

But to resume. The confusion of tongues being a fact, God now enters the scene and calls out from it a man -- even Abram -- to be the witness of faith and of dependence on Him, and to look, not for a "Babel", but "for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God". And we are graciously given the history of this witness and servant of God, in order to instruct us as to what our nature is in its action under the call of God, and how God deals with it under its many phases of self-will and independence; how He corrects, subdues and leads it into His own ways, which is for our blessing.

The word of God to Abram is, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land which I will shew thee", and the word becomes the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. We never know the real intent of our own wills until we demand them to submit implicitly to the expressed will

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of God, which His word unfolds. We may not see any very great divergence in our course from the mind of God until we measure it with the exact requirements of the word of God; and mark, not the requirements of a part of that word, but the whole of it. In fulfilling it partially we alter or qualify His mind as revealed; in departing from the spirit of it we lose the instruction; but it is in adopting it, and adhering to it as a whole, that the soul is delivered from self-will, and led into the blessing which its instruction proposes. But then it is here that comes in all the trial and exercise, for exercise and conflict there must be, from the continual effort of the natural mind to evade or qualify the word of God, and the inflexibility of God's purpose (because of His love) to confine us strictly to His own mind. And this conflict necessitates discipline, and thus explains incidents in our history which would otherwise be inexplicable to us. The call of Abraham was clear and definite. It required him to relinquish locality and all kindred associations, and to enter on a scene prepared of God. The accuracy of his obedience tests the measure of his strength; he begins to obey the call; he went forth from Ur of the Chaldees to go into the land of Canaan; he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt at Charran. He received the word and undertook to obey it, and yet we find he did so imperfectly; he only relinquished his country, and not his kindred associations he remained at Charran till his father was dead. Nature had come in to check full obedience to the call of God, and this is a great warning to us. We approve of, and adopt the call, but it is only as we walk in accordance with it that we discover the demands it makes on our nature. Nothing so proves our want of true energy as inability to accomplish what we readily undertake. How many enter on the life of faith eagerly and cheerfully who find ere long that they cannot "let the dead bury their dead", and though they are ready in heart to seek "another country", they are detained and turned aside by some link to nature. Nothing is so difficult to man as to relinquish the ties of

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nature without compensation, because such relinquishment must produce isolation, unless he has found some other absolute association; and this is just what the Lord proposed when He added, "Follow thou me". But if a relinquishment of these ties be an isolation from the nearest communication with natural existence, so must the maintenance of them be the maintenance of the most direct avenues to the human heart, and hence it is written, a "man's foes shall be they of his own household". There is no escaping nature outside grace. When Barnabas chose his kinsman Mark, he also chose Cyprus, his native country. His failure was not only in nature, but unto nature.

Abram, then, failed at first in performing the second part of God's call; he did not leave his 'father's house;' and consequently is detained till his father is dead. This is the first stage in the life of faith, and though he entered on it readily and heartily, as it is written, "he went out, not knowing whither he went", he found that he could not perform it until death had severed the bond which still attached or connected him with nature, Faith is dependence on God, and independence of everything human to sustain it. The path proposed to Abram accordingly demanded the distinctest expression of dependence on God alone. It could not be without sacrifice, neither was it meant to be, and besides the exercises which his own heart must have passed through in treading this path of faith, he is taught that death must practically sever the tie which detains him on his way. The first stage is not traversed without the heart tasting of sorrow through death, but death which brings its own deliverance. If Abram had not been detained by his father, but had pursued the unknown path without halting till he reached the place to which God had called him, he would have escaped the sorrow which death entailed; but having allowed himself to be detained, nothing could relieve him but death; and therefore under that discipline he passes. Thus it is in mercy with many of us; our dependence on God is not simple and distinct; we halt in the path of faith, and are

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detained by some link to nature until it dies, for die it must, if we are to pursue our course with God, unless we die to it.

Death, then, having dissolved Abram's tie to nature and freed him from it, he must renew his course, disciplined, no doubt, by that which had removed the weight which impeded him: a discipline which he might have escaped had he walked in more energy of faith, but by which he was nevertheless a learner; and how wholesome the lesson -- that faith does not sway the natural desire in the recesses of the heart, that, though the blessings be great, if it submits to the dictation of God without exposure, yet it rarely does, and even if it does for awhile, will ever be contending for an open expression of itself; and, if openly acting, it must be openly subdued. If I allow my natural will to lead me, and thus turn me aside from the path of faith which is God's line, I must, when God in His mercy restores me to the right line, know in myself the setting aside of my will. This is self-mortification, and this is discipline.

To young believers, to all, it is important how we undertake and accomplish this first stage of the life of faith: failure and vacillation here may entail sorrow and indecision throughout our course, for we never diverge from the path of faith without picking up "a thorn" from that nature which we are called to repudiate. It will be either nature mortified, or nature exhausted, or nature bereaved: and though we may be freed, as was Abram, by the death of his father, the failure though amended may not be eradicated in its effect, and if so, the discipline which it demanded must be continued. Lot went with Abram, but not only was he ever a trial to him personally, but his descendants were the greatest scourge to Abram's descendants; and their malignant enticements at the instigation of Balaam are set down in scripture as a type of the worst machinations against the church of God; Revelation 2:13. Wherever we fail once, like a horse that stumbles, we are likely to fail again consequently there must be, through

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God's care of us, a continual reminder to warn us of our tendency, though grace, when acting in us, always is most seen when most wanted.

Abram now enters on the second stage of the life of faith -- a stranger in a strange land, depending on God, and he builds an altar; for the strangership into which faith leads us fixes our souls on God, and worship follows. But when the consequences or circumstances of our strangership occupy us, we lose the rest which faith supplies, and seek relief elsewhere. Thus Abram, when he found that there was a famine in the land, turned aside from the path of faith on which he had entered, and went down into Egypt.

How humbling it is to find how vacillating we are in that path, and however happily and firmly we seem to be walking in it, how needful to say "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall"! Although Abram is graciously restored to the path from which he had departed, and even returns to the place where he had the altar at the beginning, we find that the thorns which he picked up in his wanderings pierce him in his restoration. The cattle, the gains of Egypt, provoke a collision between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot; but restoration always advances us in moral power, for true restoration sets us above that from which we, are restored; and now truly restored, he looks not to consequences, but, depending on God, maintains the path of faith in high moral power. My first difficulty in a walk of faith is to get clear of nature, place and kindred, and, being delivered therefrom, and in felt strangership, my next is the tendency to advance, or exalt myself, or to find rest in this new position, even as an emigrant in a wild and distant land seeks to make a home for himself as speedily as possible. This desire to advance, so strong a passion in the human soul, and the moving principle of all the great efforts of Babylon, may be designated ambition, but must be overcome by the man of faith, as God's witness in this evil world. Thus Abram's ambition is now tested; but discipline has done its work,

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and his restoration is complete. Does he seek any acknowledgment or advancement in this new country? No! he is walking by faith, and resigns all present superiority to Lot, who, gratifying his ambition, chooses the well-watered plain, while Abram is blessed with a fuller revelation as a reward for his faith. But even this is not to be enjoyed without suffering, for the moment I am on the path with Christ, I am on the path of one sent of God to minister to us people down here; and Abram, the dependent man, pursuing his unseen and separate path, has now to come forward and render the very service which Christ fulfilled, and rescue his brother Lot, who, on the contrary, had gratified the ambition of his nature by mixing himself with the course of this world, and had been consequently embroiled in its sorrows. And if, in the dangers and exercises of this service, Abram was made to feel what he had to suffer from this natural tie which he had brought from Ur of the Chaldees, his soul was at the same time confirmed in the path of dependence on God, and as his faith had on the former occasion been rewarded by a fuller revelation of the promised inheritance, his conflict and service are now rewarded by the refreshment and blessing of Melchisedec in the name of the Lord God, possessor of heaven and earth, surely more than enough to compensate for the renouncement of the ambition of mere nature!

Here let me add, that though we separate from home and kindred, and still further take heavenly standing, yet if the tendencies of our nature be unsubdued, and we seek in any wise to distinguish or advance ourselves in our new position, we shall be as Lot while, on the other hand, though we may often need discipline and be taught to renew our course after failure, yet, if we really seek to maintain the path of dependence and separation, our faith will be strengthened by increased revelations, and our service will be invigorated by association, with Him who is our Forerunner within the veil, "even Jesus, an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec".

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We now enter on the third stage of Abram's history in the path of faith, and one in which he is brought under an entirely new line of instruction, even in the exercise of his affections. The ambition of his nature has been tested before; now his affections are to be put under discipline, and this is brought about in the first instance by the promise of a son, which is the subject of chapter 15. Let me say, in passing, that in tracing the history of this servant of God, I confine myself to the one subject, even discipline. I pass over many episodes on which others have dwelt largely, such as his communion with God, intercession, etc., most interesting as it all is, but which has already been entered into fully.

It appears to me that the true state of Abram's heart is exposed in his reply to God's most gracious appeal to him in the commencement of this chapter. True, it was quite right for him to wish for a son; it was a wish responding to the counsels of God respecting him, and the lack of which would not have been according to the mind of God. But still his reply, "What wilt thou give me?" does not rise to the elevation in which God sought to establish him, even in perfect contentment and satisfaction with Himself, for what could He "give" him greater than the assurance of being Himself his "exceeding great reward"? Nevertheless, God in His grace meets him on his own level and promises that which He had before counselled to give; but a long course of discipline lies between him and the fulfilment of the promise, and as Abraham must learn in his own home a preparation for that trial to his affections which awaited him so many years afterwards, and which it was necessary for him to pass through in order to perfect him in the life of faith. It was not at all that he undervalued the fulness and nearness in which God had revealed Himself to him, but he disclosed the secret feebleness of the human soul to rest in God apart from any human link. God knows this, and offers graciously to supply it; but if He promises and gives Isaac, Abraham must hold him from God.

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Abraham believed God, but his heart needed preparation and discipline, as we see by the impatience of nature which he evinces while waiting for the fulfilment of the promise, and this he is subjected to in his own private circle. Perhaps there is no greater cause of delay to the accomplishment of what God purposes to confer on us than the natural mind (if I may say so) getting a hint of it; for as it is a point with Satan to spoil what he cannot defeat, so is it with the wilfulness of our nature which would fain adopt and accomplish what originated entirely outside itself and with God; just as Eve, interpreting a spiritual truth by a natural mind, takes Cain for the promised seed. It does not and cannot enter the heart of man the extent and nature of what God prepares for them that love Him. An Ishmael was Abraham's measure, an Isaac was God's, In the meantime Abraham must learn, through contention, strife and sorrow, what is the fruit of his impatience, and in the end he must do what was very "grievous in his sight", even to banish his son. Thus our inventions do but postpone our real blessings, for it is necessary that we should see the end of them. It must have been a period of nearly twenty years from the time of the promise to the birth of Isaac, and many were the exercises he had to pass through during that time, as well as many and great communications made to him by the Lord.

We are now come to the fourth stage of Abraham's path of discipline; chapter 21. His cup seems to be full -- Isaac is given -- the bondwoman and her son cast out -- the Gentile powers typified by Abimelech come forward to acknowledge that God is with him in all that he does, and he plants a grove and he calls on the name of the everlasting God. But more discipline was necessary to ensure to his soul that the filling of that cup was entirely from God, that He could fill, empty, and fill it again, and that He alone was the filler of it. Abraham had given up expectation from the world -- can he now surrender the object of his affections and hopes? and not only so, but will he be the actual

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perpetrator of the wrench himself? It was "very grievous in his sight" to cast out Ishmael; what must it be now to hear the word, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of!" The surrender is not like Jephthah's, namely, of his own proposing, but is distinctly required of him by God; and required not only that he should assent to it, but that he should execute it himself! Abraham obeys. He treads the path of dependence on God, high and elevated, above every influence either of ambition or affection. But what discipline! what denial of long-cherished hopes and affections! The object to be surrendered was not like Jonah's gourd, which grew up in a night and withered in a night, but the fruit of many years of patience, trial and interest, and now he was to be himself the agent in dashing the full cup from his lips. Where was nature? -- where its demand? Was he, like Jephthah, "very low" that day; or, like Jonah, "very angry"? No! the man of faith, in that moment terrible to nature, rose up early in the morning and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt-offering, and went to the place of which God had told him. What a continuance of calmness and dignity does faith impart! There was nothing sudden or hurried here: the period for reflection was lengthened, for after the third day the place was still "afar off". Who can traverse in the spirit of his mind such exercises as those in a soul which faith held true in obedience to the word of God and not wonder at the transcendent vigour which that faith confers? The surrender is complete! Abraham with his own hand takes the knife to slay his son, but he reckons on God, "accounting that he was able to raise him up, even from the dead". Dependence on God has triumphed over the demands of nature, and now follows the reward, "The ram caught in the thicket" -- Christ, the true burnt-offering, who places us in an excellency

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before God, which none of our own offerings ever could -- He is the compensation to us after all surrender, and also the true, real, entire satisfaction of our hearts. And thus the place is called Jehovah-jireh; it is the "mount of the Lord", because here the Lord provides what fully meets our need, and in addition, there also Abraham receives the largest and fullest revelation of blessing ever communicated to him. Nature was so silenced, and dependence on God so true and practical that the Lord can unfold to him the deepest counsels of His love. He was so perfect and full-grown that he has an ear to hear, and a heart to understand wisdom. God's discipline had effected all this; and this; according to the measure of His grace, is what He is leading each of us into. May we indeed have grace and wisdom to discern the path of faith, and so abide in it that our walk may be to the praise and glory of Him, who, in all His education of our souls, seeks our blessing and our joy.


Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were distinctively the "fathers of Israel" -- the heads of a people called of God, to walk in the earth, as happily dependent on Him. Abraham leads the way; and while the most exemplary in the faith which characterised them, he had also to contend with peculiarities of circumstances and conflicts unknown to them. If the path was higher, the difficulties were greater; if the faith was more vigorous, the resistance and denial of nature was more obstinate and severe; but in leadership this became him. The mighty agencies of divine faith engaged in fatal conflict each daring opposition, which wilful nature, struggling for existence, raised against it. The combat was a close one: dependence on God, wresting the creature from the government of his own will in order to subject it to God's will must have evoked nature's bitterest antagonism. Abraham properly

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presents the leadership in this momentous engagement. Isaac follows: a leader, to be sure, but in a subordinate degree. Abraham, as it were, conquers the country; Isaac is required to retain it, and must hold the position against the common foe. Abraham suffers while contending for possession; Isaac, while keeping it. Abraham's hindrances are generally from the force of circumstances outside him; Isaac's, almost always from personal weakness. Isaac presents to us the inability of nature, in its best and fairest condition, to hold the path of faith, on which, through grace, man is set, His failures are not so much the strength of the enemy turning him aside, as the mere weakness of humanity. The disciples slept when the Lord asked them to watch, note from evil, for "the spirit was willing", but because "the flesh was weak", and it could not demonstrate the very feeling it commended. Isaac teaches us how weak and rickety the best part of our nature is in the path of faith, how it fails therein, and hence the discipline necessary for it.

Isaac enters on the scene as the child of promise; and, as his name indicates, under the happiest moral auspices. No wonder that we should be prepared to see in him a pleasing sample of fallen humanity, obedient, affectionate and domestic. Our first notice of his opening manhood being the ascension of mount Moriah, a scene so wonderful that we hardly know which most rivets our admiring gaze, the self-possessed action of Abraham, or the lamb-like acquiescence of Isaac. It may be said, that he did not know beforehand that it so fatally affected himself; but, even when he did know, by being laid on the wood of the altar, and the knife in his father's outstretched hand to slay him, we do not find that he in the least resisted its accomplishment. To obey in ignorance evinces unlimited confidence in the one to whom I yield such unsuspecting submission, and, still more, proves that I can bend and set aside my own will in subjection to the one who has claim on me. Obedience must stand at the head of the list of all the activities which would conduce to order and blessing.

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The demand (even as it was in the first instance with Adam) is to surrender the will to one rightly invested with claim to it. Subjects, servants, wives, children, come under it; and the first commandment with promise is such, because the surrender of the will is an activity contrary to the very genius of our nature; and this activity God owns and blesses. The path of the Lord Jesus was one of unqualified obedience, but He had always vividly before Him what the consequences of that obedience would be; so that He submitted because of the service He should render, and the joy He should contribute to His Father, and not, as did His type Isaac, because he was ignorant of the issue, or only sustained in his obedience by confidence in the one who required it. This obedience of Isaac in the opening of his history, however, warrants our estimate of him; but if (like the young man in the gospel whom the Lord loved) it proceeded only from natural character, it must be (even as was his) subjected to an unequivocal test.

The more lovely the character, the more unmistakable must be the evidence that such an one has renounced all of himself. He is required to sell all that he has and give to the poor, whence it could not be recalled; and thus, bereft and denuded, to follow the Lord. Isaac, then, the gentlest of natures, must in figure pass through death! Death! that end of all nature, the only true goal for it, for where the flesh is entirely ended, even in the death of Christ, there only is full deliverance from it, and conscious entrance into the place in which grace has set us. To this unreserved submission to the divine mind unfailingly leads; and this discipline, so necessary and blessed for him, is imposed on Isaac at the very opening of his history. It is not as with Abraham, separation and self-mortification, but it is nothing short of death, moral death. The more refined and perfect the nature, the more difficult it is to deny it; where there is nothing very manifestly to be denied, it seems hard that all must be denied. Where there is something manifest, the denial of it will always

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break the will, because the will is expressed in the leading passion, and breaking the will is moral death to nature, which all must pass through, only with some it is accomplished directly through the crushing of some ruling taste or evil; while with others, of a more even nature, such as Isaac's, where nothing stands out prominently to be broken, the whole thing must be negatived, and that practically.

The next notice we get of Isaac is also one of death; but death of a different description, and which prepared him for a new order of life. The death of his mother has left him a solitary one on the earth; and this was another way of learning it. Surely we find in divine discipline the twofold way of learning death, that is, either dying myself or everything dying to me. May we not say that, as Isaac "meditated in the field", he must (though cheered with hopes of better things to come) have experienced how death can blight all the scene, causing a blank to the heart which nothing in it could repair? The removal of Sarah, however, is followed by the gift of Rebekah, and he emerges from the gloom and sorrow of death to enter, as it were, on the consolation which the Lord has provided for him; but even then, so true and faithful are the dealings of our God with His people, Isaac the promised seed has no heir; nor has he until cast on God, he is taught to look to Him instead of to nature. He must learn that God's blessings, whatever they be, will not yield desired results apart from Him. But, when this lesson is learnt, the pre-ordained purpose will be accomplished, and thus to Isaac children are given. At their birth is vouchsafed a revelation of their destinies sufficient to guide an ear open to God's mind and counsels, as to what the divine mind respecting them was, and what should be their respective places. Isaac should have understood this, and acted towards them accordingly; but he does not appear to have done so, or else his habitual nature swamped the counsel of God in his mind, for he does not seem to have discerned in Jacob the heir to the promises, and "he loved Esau

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because he did eat of his venison". The divine intimation is overlooked, because the father's heart is gratified in the attentions of the son, and is more influenced by the dictates of nature than by the counsel of God. Natural and paternal as this feeling was, it was man's will opposed to God's will, and therefore Isaac must be taught to relinquish it -- for the word of the Lord, that shall stand!

But this does not happen in a moment. He appears to have enjoyed his preference of Esau for a long time. In the course of discipline to which God subjects His people, we often find that there is a manifest reluctance on His part to deprive us of simple natural enjoyments. Nay, we are often allowed to share in them, until we attempt in the presumption of nature, to give them a place contrary to God: until, like king Uzziah, we seek to give that which has only a place in nature, a place with God; and accordingly invest it with dignities which are sacred to Him, This almost necessarily occurs where there is a disposition to follow the Lord, and even where pleasing God is the approved motive of the soul; in fact, where the conscience is in exercise, but the will is not subject. Hence the Lord's demands may be acknowledged in the soul, without the will being really subject to God's will; and, when this is the case, there will be an effort (and often a momentarily successful effort) to appropriate for the creature that dignity and province which the divinely-appointed alone should occupy. In Christendom we see remarkable examples of this, right names attached to the most unfit opponents of them. For instance, "the church", as used in common parlance, no more represents the true thing than the golden calf did the God who brought Israel out of Egypt; and yet the majority of consciences are satisfied because the true and spiritual name is retained. Alas! we may all fall into this in our own way and practice. We may calm our conscience, while we gratify our will, by affixing to what is but nature's offspring a divine title. Where this tendency is at work there must be discipline; but for some discipline we are not prepared until we pass

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through that of another order. And mark, while Esau by his hunting is ingratiating himself with his father, and so far annulling the word of God in his mind, the effects of that very hunting oblige him to sell his birthright to the one whom God had designed it for: thus, at the same time; preparing the needed discipline for Isaac, and the fulfilment of the Lord's own purposes. Satan's most apparent success always contains the seed of his own ruin. As in the death of Christ, his power was concentrated and lost; so in every minor assault of his we should find, if we had but patience to wait for the issue, that his direst plot against us eventuates in our surest deliverance. "Out of the eater comes forth meat".

The next notice we have of Isaac is of a different order. There was a famine in the land; and Genesis 26 gives us a detailed account of the exercises which he passed through, from the time he departed southward until he returned again. This famine is expressly distinguished from the "first famine" in the days of Abraham. The first tried Abraham, the leader; the second tried Isaac, the occupier. Abraham had turned aside through it and gone down to Egypt. Isaac takes the same direction, and goes to Abimelech, king of the Philistines; but God there warns him not to go further, but to sojourn in Gerar. He allows him to sojourn there, in order to test the possibility of it; but adds, "Dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of". Isaac not only sojourns in Gerar, but dwells there; and, as a consequence, his troubles begin. He has another lesson to learn here: even that however prosperous he may be in the land of the Philistines, he can never enjoy the peace and calm which his soul desired while he is in association with them. He attempts at first to secure an undisturbed residence among them by false representations, which falsity being discovered, humbles him before them; as one not able to trust God in the circumstances in which he had placed himself. Still he does not leave the place. We often strive to remain where we have been unfaithful, as if we could regain what we had lost; but if our position be

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one of unbelief, no course of conduct there will ever alter its character. The Lord teaches Isaac the unprofitableness of gain in Gerar. He may be blessed, his corn yielding a hundred-fold, until he become very great. But what of it all? The position of stranger would be happier for him, for he might then eat his bread in quietness, and drink from his own fountain in peace; but with all his greatness and possessions, these mercies are denied him in Gerar.

Isaac, by a slow and painful process, is taught that he must abandon the land of the Philistines in toto: each successive well which he had to dig marking the stages of this process. First, "contention"; then "hatred"; next "room"; but having found "room", and being delivered from the association which hampered him, he advances to Beersheba, which is on the confines of the land. He again takes the place of a stranger and pilgrim, depending on God; and the moment he does so he gets his reward. "The Lord appeared unto him the same night", and blessed him. The discipline had produced sanctification, and he builds an altar and worships. It had taught him that it is better to have a little with God than great possessions in a position outside his calling; and now he enjoys his mercies and his well in peace. It is the same lesson, only in a milder form, which Abraham had to learn; even to crucify his ambition and desire for eminence in this evil world. Ambition seeks to be an object of consideration to others; affection seeks an object of consideration for itself. Abraham had to pass through the trial and crucifixion of both; Isaac also, only, as we have said, in a milder form. He is brought to the end of the one, even ambition, in a way very common to the people of God, by finding that no acquisition with evil association can be enjoyed, and by being driven, after various struggles, to abandon the wrong position for the untroubled waters of Sheba and the presence of the Lord.

But the great discipline, that of affection, awaits him; one for which he was being prepared, as it were, for a long time; indeed, it was the grand discipline and lesson of his

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life. It began when, on Mount Moriah, his whole nature, the good as well as the bad, was negatived by passing, in a figure, through death; and is never lost sight of throughout his course. Then it was more actual death, once and for ever; but now he is taught that denial of the will which morally leads into what death is practically. All that we hear of him, in connection with his favourite son, Esau, bears the same character, and seems to be a preparation for the trial of his affections, which he was to undergo respecting him at the close, for having unduly indulged nature in preference to the counsel of God. The weakness of the flesh was Isaac's lesson, often a more humbling one than its evils. It caused the beloved disciple to sleep in Gethsemane, and allowed Peter to curse and to swear that he knew not the One whom he loved best on earth.

But, to resume. Esau not only had disposed of his birthright, but he had socially disentitled himself to heirship by marrying a Canaanite. This being known to Isaac, is, as we read, a "grief of mind" to him. Yet even this did not displace Esau from that place in his father's affections which he held for so many years. Esau was forty years old when this marriage took place. Years after this, as we may suppose, when "Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see", he calls Esau to him, and says, "My son, ... Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go into the field, and take me some venison, and make me savoury meat, such as I love, that I may eat, and that my soul may bless thee before I die". Thus to the last does Isaac cling to the son he loved, overlooking, in the strength of his natural affection, every divine intimation, and every act of his, which should have influenced him to a different course; and he here comes before us in a truly humbling point of view, as the saint always does when uncontrolled nature rules the day.

But God will subdue nature, unjudged nature, and in Isaac too! And not only this (so perfect and complete are

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God's ways), but He will use that very gratification, the indulgence of which had served to pervert Isaac's mind and judgment, as the direct instrument wherewith to discipline him. He is allowed to be deceived. Through means of the "savoury meat", his mind was diverted from sound judgment; and through the "savoury meat" he is compelled, unconsciously, to act according to the will of God; not as in the elevated and intelligent action of Jacob, who, in pronouncing his blessing, did so in full accordance of spirit with the mind of God, but as failing, humbled, deceived -- carrying out the will of God almost in spite of himself; and without any intelligent communion with Him -- the sad effects of nature unjudged, and unmortified.

However, human counsels are frustrated. Jacob, the rightful heir the appointed of God, receives the blessing, and Isaac must hear it. And now the conflict between the natural will and the word of God takes place in his soul. What is the result? Nature surrenders. What a moment! Who can describe the moral volcano which convulses the whole being when the word of God which has been treated with indifference asserts its sway and authority in our souls. Our will withers up before the majesty of the truth made known to us, without sanctifying us. No wonder we read that "Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it to me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea ['the word of the Lord is triumphant'], and he shall be blessed!" We should note here a fact of great moment, namely, that though walking in self-will may not, as it cannot, alter truth, yet, if our spirit is not in subjection to God, we shall attempt to apply it very erroneously. It is only when nature is subjected that we can happily accord with the only true and right application of the word of God.

In conclusion, note how the discipline of the Lord works. Isaac has now submitted to the counsel of God; but what a scene of sorrow surrounds him! His affection

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for Esau wrenched; and the now rightful heir, the hope of his house, an exile! All this the bitter fruit of natural affection indulged, contrary to the mind of God!

Yet we hear no expression of impatience with Isaac, he blesses Jacob, and sends him to Padan-aram, in the vigour and faith of his best days. And his history closes with the account of how his last days were cheered by the presence of Jacob. Thus we see what is the "END of the Lord", even "very pitiful and of tender mercy", restoring to the bereaved one, when discipline has done its work, all, and even more than it lost. May this comfort all who mourn in Zion!


The history of Jacob is peculiarly interesting to us, for in it are developed the activities of the natural will, not so much in the contravention of the expressed counsel of God, but rather in an attempt to secure by his own instrumentality what was pre-ordained of God. The more intelligent the mind of man is and impressed with the purpose of God, the more does it need subjection to God; for otherwise it will seek to accomplish, by natural means, what ought to be left to the ordering of God; and this produces restlessness.

The mind, thus active, has great need for self-judgment; for its error is not refusing or misapprehending the will of God, but in attempting to promote and secure it by its own efforts. Now, when this is the case, the Lord allows His servant to find, by sorrowful experience, the fruit of his own plans. And though the purposes of His love remain the same, they must be reached in circumstances which declare that He who blesses, and addeth no sorrow to it, has had to deal with the will of the one whom He blesses. "The fear of the Lord is wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding". If I have not God before me, I never can, with a natural mind and in a world of evil, walk wisely: for God is the fountain of wisdom.

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Therefore mere knowledge in itself is nothing; that is, it never leads a man to walk with God.

Faith comes before knowledge: there is no link to God in knowledge if faith does not precede it. If I am depending on God, all true knowledge must increase that dependence; for, if I learn correctly, I find that there is none so worthy of dependence as He. If I love God, I know Him, but my love feeds my knowledge: otherwise "knowledge puffeth up".

Jacob is a remarkable example of one appreciating blessing, but ever and anon intercepting and anticipating the ways of God by his own plans. The heart was right, we might say; but the mind was unsubdued, and the natural mind cannot act but according to its own perversity.

Thus in the first act of his life presented to us, he evinces a greater regard for the blessing, and the position which the birthright would confer, than for the means by which he should secure them. He takes the advantage of his brother's destitution to seize the valued, the justly valued, prize, which Esau ought not to have surrendered for any gain. Yet the possession of the birthright failed to give Jacob that assurance of the blessing which it represented: for if it had, he would not afterwards have so readily complied with his mother's unworthy expedient to secure it for him. And why? The desired mercy had been grasped by him in a natural way; and he derived none of the satisfaction from it which he would have experienced had it reached him in a divine way; for a divine way always connects the soul with God. If a mercy is not connected with God it may often make me more miserable; but if it is, if I know that it flows from His love, my heart receives it in tranquillity and confidence; for I know that though I may lose the proof of His love, I cannot lose the love itself, and that the love cannot exist without declaring itself.

Moses was soon discouraged in his effort to rescue Israel from the bondage of Egypt. He appreciated the service, but, by not connecting it with God, he soon lost assurance

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as to its success. The Lord in His grace will teach us sooner or later to connect all our mercies or services with Himself; because He knows that without this we cannot reckon on His strength in supporting us. Thus Moses is forty years in the land of Midian, being prepared for the tidings of the burning bush. Paul in prison at Rome is confirmed in the reality of truths which had been communicated to him long before. And Jacob, when he was brought near to God, and knew His power while he wrestled against it, obtained through grace the name of Israel, and was confirmed in the assurance of blessings, which he became entitled to many years previously. The possession of the birthright, his father's blessing, the vision at Bethel, the dream at Padan-aram -- all failed to assure Jacob's soul of the reality of the portion which he so prized and needed. The strong arm of God wrestling with him at Mahanaim, where he was brought into personal nearness and subjection to God, alone established him in the assurance of it.

The dream at Bethel was the divine communication of the blessing; but not until Jacob is made to feel the bitter fruits of his own wilfulness, during a period of twenty years in Padan-aram, is he brought into that closeness of exercise with the Lord, which, though successful, results in personal disparagement. No one is restored to God after a course of wilfulness but must know in himself that the success of God's grace stands out in contrast to his nature by which he had been led and deceived, and as the grace obtains its place and value, the nature must be proportionately condemned and abhorred.

What a course of discipline to subdue a wilful soul! Jacob is blessed in everything that he desires, although often thwarted, and always in what he most prizes. His elder brother surrenders him the birthright; his father blesses him with the best of blessings: the Lord reveals the purpose of His love towards him, when a wanderer from his father's house; in Padan-aram everything succeeds, but through hard labour and a series of thwartings,

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and when he returns to enjoy the accumulated blessings in the land of promise, he is met at the very entrance by his brother Esau, and the question must be decided whether he is really possessor of the blessing after all. What a moment of agony and suspense this must have been to his wilful spirit! Still unable to trust God, he fears that the cup, which God Himself has filled, is about to be dashed from his lips, and all his blessings lost. The issue was now at stake. All the previous education of his life was in reference to this moment, He was the blessed one; but was he self-renounced enough to be invested with full and satisfactory possession? He has to come to such an end of himself that he rests on God, and God only, for the security of those blessings.

From that struggle -- a struggle against God, he emerges as an Israel, but with the deep sense of personal weakness the mark of which he bears in himself. The sinew of his thigh shrank. A loser personally, he is a gainer positionally; or rather, he loses in a natural way, but gains in a divine way. He had sought to appropriate to himself the blessings of the land in the strength and resources of nature; and after twenty years of discipline, when about really to enter it, he is brought into such straits and exercises of soul that God is his only resource. He is cast upon Him, and cannot proceed after all, unless God not only blesses but subdues him. But this attained, he enters the land by faith, as Israel, humbled and blessed, yet bearing marks of personal weakness.

And in this character, as the Israel, though halting, can he meet Esau, or any one who may dispute his title. All the toil and success of twenty years are lost as to their bearing on that title; for it is God's blessing, not the proof of it, that really establishes his soul, and sends him forth as the humbled Israel, the indisputable possessor of the land! A history all this of ourselves! Seeking for blessings, but too unsubdued to confide the ordering of them to the Lord alone; apprehending the loss of them, and finding our own insufficiency when any demand is

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made on us. But the God of Jacob is our God, and He will not only discipline but bless us.

This properly closes the first stage in the life of Jacob. He now takes the place of faith, the only true link to blessing, and is a pattern to us of the honour set on one who surrenders his own will, and comes out of the conflict prevailing with God and man. We then find that, perverse as the will is in itself, the breaking of it is what God distinguishes with the greatest eminence, even giving such an one power to prevail with Himself and man.

We have now to consider Jacob in the land. Though the will must be broken in order to facilitate our entrance into a sphere of blessing, we seldom abide in that sphere without exhibiting a recurrence of the same wilfulness which delayed and obstructed our entrance. The path, to be a true one and pleasing to God, must ensure that suppression of nature which would exert a counter influence; and hence the sphere of blessing which I have entered on through the denial of my will must be retained and enjoyed in the same spirit. If I think or act otherwise, I must suffer, and learn by God's discipline that the subjection, which fitted me for entering, I must not relax one whit, because I have entered and am in possession.

How often do we observe, and know too, the very contrary to this in ourselves! How often, after using great watchfulness, treading softly, and really humbly seeking to enter, do we, when we obtain and enjoy what we have sought, forget the mode and spirit by which we have obtained it, and thus fresh discipline becomes necessary for us! Israel fought and suffered in order to reach the blessings of the land, but when those blessings were obtained and enjoyed, Israel waxed fat and kicked, and forgot the God who had exalted him. It is more difficult to walk with God in the fulness of mercies than in the dearth of them. The water was a greater test to Gideon's army than any of the sufferings consequent on the undertaking.

Jacob now, in peaceful enjoyment of all the blessings

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with which God had surrounded him, and in that land with which every blessing was connected, ought to have repaired to Bethel, according to his pledge. But instead of this, he considers for his own immediate necessities, and builds a house at Succoth. It might be asserted that his necessities required this; but still, it was a departure from the principle of faith by which he had entered on possession. It was a divergence, however small, from the path of a pilgrim, and moreover, a halt on the way, which should have been steadily pursued onward until Bethel was reached. And, as one failure always leads to another, the next thing that we read of him is, that he bought a parcel of a field of the children of Hamor. He acquires some other guarantee for his possession than the will and arm of the Almighty. It is a repetition of that wilfulness which so characterised him; always seeking to secure by his own means the blessings which were derived from God, and which he doubtless owned as such. This is a very common tendency, and much more difficult of exposure and correction than that which seeks what is simply of the world. God Himself is not the first object of the soul. His gifts, alas! too often shut out God Himself; and, where He is not paramount, will must be somewhere at work, and we are in reality thinking of enjoying ourselves with the gifts instead of with Him.

So with Jacob at Shalem. Having yielded to nature, and departed in wilfulness from the path of simple dependence on God, he now erects an altar, and calls it "El-elohe-Israel", not surely forgetting that he was Israel, the blessed one, but magnifying this fact more than the grace of God that made him so. The true state of our souls is revealed by the title of our altar, if I may so express it, or, in other words, the character of our approach to God. When the soul is occupied with itself, that is, when its own condition is more before it than the greatness and excellency of the Lord, it is evident that the latter cannot be fully apprehended, or its superiority would necessarily supplant the former. When we are in the presence of God,

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we cannot be occupied with our own state, save as in thanksgiving for being admitted to such a place. When really with God, we are lost in God, and in His interests; but when we are occupied with our own blessings or necessities, though it is an occupation right in its place, it is lower than that which makes Him the supreme object, lower than that which Paul knew when his aim was to "win Christ".

Jacob is here not only occupied with his blessings, but indulging his wilfulness, and for this discipline is needed. The weight must be removed. He must learn that his own plans only produce sorrow and discomfiture. Thus, his residence at Shalem entails shame and sorrow on his family, and the only relief from it is to obey the word of the Lord.

He is made to feel the shame and humiliation of the position which he had chosen, and then the word of the Lord tells with effect on his soul, and the discipline has prepared him to respond to it. "Arise", says the Lord, "go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother". In pursuing the "race set before us" all goes right! Jacob, on departing from Shechem for Bethel, leaves all his defilements behind him. The idols must be left at Shechem: they cannot be taken to Bethel. The moment we take God's line -- the way to God's house, we must be clean; "holiness becometh his house for ever". When at Bethel, the altar is El-Bethel -- God of the house of God is the simple object of his worship. And while he thus names the place in connection with God, the name of it in connection with himself is Allon-bachuth, the oak of weeping. This teaches us an important lesson, even that if Jacob has reached the high place with God, as El-Bethel indicates, he must also on his own side taste excision from everything which had hindered him. Deborah, his mother's nurse, dies: the last link with the one who had so loved him, and allowed her love to carry her outside the path of faith, is now

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broken. The mother, we may conclude, had died long before; but now the nurse dies. Death supervenes, on Jacob's side, the moment his soul had risen to its true place before God.

Another step in the path of faith has been taken, and now God appears to Jacob again, and blesses him, and he is confirmed in the name Israel. Blessings may be conferred without being confirmed. For the latter they must be connected with the Giver, and known to the soul as established in His presence. But now having reached Bethel and having received the blessings connected with that step of faith, Jacob sets out on his journeyings again in order to reach Hebron where his father dwelt. Whether this journey was contrary to the Lord's mind directing him to dwell at Bethel, I do not say; but the fact is that he had scarcely entered on his journey from Bethel before he is visited with the greatest trial to his affections. At Bethlehem Rachel dies. Here was a blank that could never be repaired to him -- a bereavement never to be forgotten during the remainder of his course. Compare Genesis 35:16, with Genesis 48:7. In the latter passage Jacob alludes to that sorrow as if it had closed all his hopes as to earth. "As for me", he says, "when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan, when yet there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem". He buries the object of his affections where Christ the real balm for every bereaved heart would yet be born. If he leaves Bethel, the house of God, the place where God had appeared to him, and told him to dwell, he is taught that there must be nothing but a desolation outside. The clouds gather around his path. The immorality of his firstborn and the death of his father quickly follow. How deeply the former affected him we learn from chapter 49: 3, 4, where the sorrow of his heart, unnoticed here, finds a vent in reviewing all in the light of God's counsels.

The next notice we get of Jacob is in chapter 37, where we read that "he dwelt in the land wherein his father was

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a stranger". This was his proper position, the one to which faith had called him; but, nevertheless, the discipline, after a respite, is continued. It was still necessary that he should be weaned from dependence on any object whatever. Though Rachel be gone, her two sons remain; and, through them Jacob undergoes a continued process of crucifixion to his affections.

If we were more careful to observe the manner and links of God's dealings with us, we should find that though there may be a suspension in the sorrow, and often a long interval of repose, yet that the trials are continued very much in the same line until the desired effect is produced.

We might have thought that Jacob's spirit was so broken, so shaken out of his interests and affections, that his path would, henceforth, be one of easy subjection to God. But, no! there is not complete surrender of the will of man while any link of nature is active; and all the sorrow of heart which we read of in chapters 37 and 43, touching Joseph and Benjamin, is necessary to bring Jacob's heart and will into entire submission. That the discipline produced this effect we cannot doubt, if we compare his expressions in chapter 37: 34, 35, and in chapter 43: 14. In the first instance he rent his clothes, put sackcloth upon his loins, and refused to be comforted. "For", said he, "I will go down into the grave with my son mourning". But in the last, he says, "If I am bereaved, I am bereaved;" or in other words, "I submit". What a difference! what a desolation, when the heart is wrenched, and there is no resource in God, but what a contrast when "God (as God) is a refuge", and the bereaved one can say, "If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!" "I take that place". It is simple submission to the will of God, and effects for us what God so much desires -- even that we should find our resources in Him; and the soul, brought to this, is fully satisfied. The heart alone, and near God, knows that He is its strength and its portion for ever. As our Lord tells the woman of Samaria, "He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but he that drinketh of the water that

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I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life". This is the giving of God, and moreover the object, the loss of which had occasioned such sorrow to the tried and disciplined one, is given back when he is prepared for it and matured in dependence on God.

Jacob receives both Joseph and Benjamin again. But so unprepared is he for the tender mercy of our God, that the very announcement of it causes his heart to faint. So great had been the depths of his sorrow, that the unaccredited attempt to relieve it, for a moment almost overwhelmed him. Much discipline had been needed to break his strong will and unsubdued nature, but it had done its work. How broken is he now! To bind up the broken heart is one of the especial services of Christ; but many a Jacob cannot believe it possible that such tender mercy awaits him and the greatness of it subdues the humbled one more than the discipline had done.

But the Lord always makes sure of His work. He stoops to our weakness and gives us evidences. The nobleman (John 4) was assured by evidences that it was at the very hour that Jesus said to him, "Thy son liveth", that he was made whole. And so here: Jacob is first convinced by evidences of the reality of the mercy, and then, after recovering Joseph again, the relief is so complete, that he utters sentiments similar to those of the aged Simeon, when he held the infant Jesus in his arms: "Now let me die", he says, "since I have seen thy face", etc.

The cup is full! the heart, already so broken and subdued, is now satisfied, having received back what it had lost, directly from God, and with increased honour and glory to Him. Discipline having done its work, we find that fulness of joy is our portion according to the heart of God for us.

Jacob's life in Egypt is properly the third stage of his chequered pilgrimage, and a bright stage it is. In his last moments occurs the great event noted by the apostle as the brightest evidence of faith: "By faith Jacob, when he

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was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, and worshipped on the top of his staff". He there appears before us as the witness for God, intelligent as to His counsels, broken in will, holy and elevated in utterance. What a bright and tranquil close to his distracted, self-willed, and disciplined life! How much have we to learn from his history! Valuing blessings but ever resorting to his own means and modes in order to secure them; learning by sorrowful experience the folly of his own plans, and that in whatever measure a man metes, it will be measured to him again. But on the other hand, he learns also that God is the only true rest and resource in sorrow; and this priceless portion he acquires to the satisfying of his heart before his course ends.

Oh! how helpful and instructive it is to retrace all the ways and dealings of God with us, when we are at last "settled in him" as our sure resource.


The history of Joseph unfolds to us the trials and duties of a servant of God. The evils and failure of human nature are not brought before us in his course, as in that of some we have already studied. Joseph is regarded primarily as a servant and instrument for God's work; and consequently we have to trace the exercises and purgation to which he must be subjected in order to fit him for that work.

The first notice we have of him is respecting his position in his father's house. "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a coat of many colours". Thus loved and signalised by his father, his heart was enlarged. Tasting the sweetness of affection, his own was drawn out; for nothing generates affection in us so much as the assurance of its existence for us; as it is written, "We love him, because he first loved us". When love asserts its claim, every other claim is acknowledged and valued as only

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opportunities for its expression. So Joseph's heart, in tender age, expanded in the genial atmosphere of his father's love; but this, at the same time, exposed him to the envy of those who had proved themselves unworthy of it. "His brethren hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him". While, on the one side, he learned the tenderness and resources of his father's affection, on the other, he suffered reproach and persecution for being so favoured. If the one attracted him to his father, the other painfully warned him that he must be dependent on his affection, for outside of it, and on account of it, he was a sufferer.

Thus, early in life and in the domestic circle, did Joseph learn (as indeed do all God's Servants) the elementary principles of that truth which must sustain him in the highest services by-and-by; even that as the loved of God he is the hated of man. The love of his father, conspicuously indicated by the coat of many colours, must compensate him for the hatred of the brethren; must nerve and prepare him for all their opposition and envy. This is the first and greatest lesson which the servant of God has to learn on entering his course, and that which Christ (of whom Joseph is the type) so fully and perfectly apprehended: He who, ever dwelling in the full consciousness of the Father's love, was thereby enabled to meet unmoved all the hatred and malice of man. And still further, the one who knows best the Father's love must be the best exponent of that love -- the best qualified servant for the Father to send on a mission of interest to those who were ignorant of it. "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him". Joseph, still bearing out his character of type and servant, is deputed by his father to see how his brethren fared; but before this event there are two intimations given him of the position which he must occupy by-and-by with respect to these communications. He receives no support from his father, who rebukes him, and this with the concomitant and increased opposition of his brethren, laid the groundwork of that

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dependence on God, and independence of man, which so distinguished his after course. The prospects which divinely occupy my soul may be ill-received by all around me, even by valued friends and guides; but they are mercifully given in order to confirm the soul, and still more to convince me, when the realisation supervenes, how true and constant has been God's care of me.

How little we notice or value the small circumstances of our early life, and the large effect they exercise on us! From infancy we are forming for the place destined for us of God; and our whole history is but a succession of processes preparing us for the end, the very first of them, in all material points, bearing strict analogy to the one which closes our course. Thus was it with David. The first notice we have of him is feeding sheep in the wilderness, from whence he was taken, after an intervening process of discipline, "to feed Israel his people, and Jacob his inheritance", a position which he held, in many a varying circle, to the end. So also with Moses. Alone for God, with God, and under God, in the ark of bulrushes, every era of his life is of the same order, whether in Midian, in the mount, or on Pisgah at last.

Joseph then starts on his mission, assured of his father's love, aware of the hatred of his brethren, and secretly impressed with an unknown, and as yet incomprehensible, idea of future greatness. Responding to the will of his father, he did not shrink from the post of danger, which his father did not apprehend for him. If the One greater than we are, in love and in wisdom, appoint us a path of service, which would be grateful to Himself, and He, knowing all, apprehends no danger for us, we may surely enter on it in simple confidence. It is the only true and happy spirit for any path of service. Emerging from the private home -- known expression of our Father's love -- to launch into the tumultuous ocean of unreasonable and unloving brethren, and be messengers of the Father's interest respecting them. Thus Christ came, and thus must every true servant of His be sustained and useful.

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Joseph, pursuing this path of service, bearer of his father's message and exponent of his father's interest, came to Shechem, but is checked in the execution of his mission by finding his brethren not there. Such checks often occur in order to test our reality as to whether the Father's will is wholly our desire. Joseph's heart was evidently set on its accomplishment, for, instead of returning when he could not find them, he lingers at his post until he gets tidings of them, and then follows them to Dothan, unprepared for the murderous and malicious reception which awaited him.

After various modifications of these evil purposes (for wicked counsels must always be multifarious, whereas there is but one way for doing right), Joseph is sold to the Ishmaelites, and again sold by them into Egypt, unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, and captain of the guard. What a change for him, from the glow of a parent's love, uppermost and chief, to be first murderously assailed by his own brethren, and now a bondsman in Egypt! Had the divine communications vouchsafed to him in his dreams made him independent of everything from man (be it love or hatred), and dependent only on God? If they had, he needed it at this juncture; and, undoubtedly, that was the value of the discipline he was now undergoing. Truth is communicated to us first, and we may greatly value the acquisition of it; but the winter can alone season the succulent growths of spring and summer. The great reality of the truth must be learned by us; Joseph must be cast on God.

But the winter is seldom without some gleam of sunshine; and often before its depths, as well as before its conclusion, a bright season intervenes. Before the sternest part of the discipline befalls us, we are often cheered by an unexpected reprisal. Thus Joseph is a prosperous man in the captain's house. But from this he is soon driven -- a snare being there prepared for him by the adversary of souls, which he has integrity and dignity to fly from; for it only addressed the depravity of his nature, and offered no alleviation to his condition as a slave. We may regard

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Potiphar's wife as a type of the world, the allurements of which she symbolises; and which, failing to attract the servant of God, becomes his direst and most unscrupulous foe. Evil association too often accompanies prosperity; but prosperity in evil association cannot be retained by the God-fearing soul. The latter will extinguish the former if there be faithfulness. But how great is the compensation for the loss of both! God remains -- unto whom, and before whom, Joseph now distinctly acted. How chequered is the life of this future witness for God! First sold as a bondsman for being the messenger of his father's love unto his brethren; and now cast into prison by his master because he was the righteous guardian of his master's property; he learned that neither love nor righteousness could be comprehended by man. To God alone he must look, and on God alone he must be cast. And God did not disappoint him. "The Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison". The one who is really cast on God improves the circumstances of trial in which he is, whether they be temporary or permanent. No adverse circumstances can crush the true living energy, however they may limit and determine it. The scene may be changed, but not the spirit of it. Moses in Midian helps the women, and waters their flocks, when no longer allowed to help and serve the Hebrews; he is a saviour in Midian as well as in Egypt to the nation of Israel: and the Lord becomes a sanctuary to him, and provides alleviation for him in his bondage and sorrow. And Joseph also is found, ere long, to be as useful in prison as he was in the house of the captain of the guard. "The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper".

In every trial, however gloomy, there are gleams of light and relief; but full deliverance is often delayed by our anxiety to obtain it. God Himself, and not the deliverance, is to be the satisfaction of His servant; consequently the

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deliverance is often postponed until we are without prospect or expectation of it; and then it may be accorded in a manner so transcendently beyond our conception, that we must see and understand the love and interest which surrounded us during the whole period of our trial. Thus was it with Peter in Acts 12, with Paul and Silas in Acts 16, and with Joseph in the sequel of what we are considering. His abilities as God's servant, and as one acquainted with His mind, are first in the most distinct manner displayed in the prison. Trials, the effect of man's enmity, do not obstruct the truth of God. Opportunity for its development will occur in apparently the most disastrous circumstances. Paul in prison is blessed to the gaoler: Joseph in prison reveals to the chief butler the judgments of God; but he probably errs in soliciting the latter to negotiate for his release; and two full years longer must he remain a captive. He is again taught that no confidence can be placed in man. The prolonged incarceration must have deeply tried one who was conscious of having done nothing to merit it. It must have almost seemed as if God had forgotten him; and nothing is so painful as the sense that one from whom you expect much knows of your need, and does not come forward to your help. This was Job's great trial -- that God did not manifest care for him, and John the baptist's, when he heard in prison of the works of Jesus.

Whether Joseph felt thus we are not told; but we know that God had a purpose in his prolonged imprisonment, and when that purpose was answered, "the time came, and the word of the Lord tried him; the king sent and delivered him, even the ruler of the people, and let him go free". How little we understand the exercises and purgation to which the faithful branch must be subjected that it may be fit for God's service! Chastening is needed to take out of the way that which we do not seek to remove; but it is purging which rids us of what we desire and seek to be rid of. Joseph underwent a deep process of purgation from the day he left his father's house clad in the coat of many colours as a distinguishing mark of love. He had to

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learn, through a remarkable series of sorrow and discipline, that, in order to be fit for God's service, he must find that the favour of man is deceitful; he is allowed to taste of it from time to time, in order to shew him how little it can avail him in any moment of need; and slowly, but surely, he learns what it is to be from God and to God. But deliverance comes in the end, and Joseph appears before Pharaoh, in the highest sense, as a servant and witness of God. He declares things to come, and receives the distinction and position to which righteously he is entitled, and which the world even is compelled to accord him. All this time, probably, he knew little of the service which he was to render to his brethren, or how fully that which he once attempted to render to them, and which was so wickedly rejected and requited, would now be offered, and so humbly appreciated. God all the time was working for His people and preparing for them; and in the process of time Joseph knew this, and fulfilled it.

In his several interviews with his brethren he presents to us the loveliest portraiture of the man of divine wisdom and judgment struggling against the finest emotions of the heart; restraining the expression of his affection until he were assured that the right and safe time for the dénouement had arrived. How touching the anxiety and distress which he inflicts on his brethren, in order to secure to them the ways and doings which his heart craved! His love for them prompted it all; and in surveying his behaviour we cannot but see how self-possessed and controlled he had become, and how fitted for the service he was called to render and maintain. What a moment it must have been to this once suffering and humbled, but now exalted and disciplined man, to present himself to his father, fall on his neck and weep! What a course of preparation he had passed through before this great climax of his life and service was attained! But attained it was. He had through mercy accomplished and provided for every need of his brethren, evincing at the same time how equal he was to the mission he first entered on at the commencement of his

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course -- namely, to convey to them a just idea of their father's love.

In conclusion, we have only to observe the faith for which he was distinguished. After all the eminence he had attained in Egypt, and all the service he had performed, by faith he sees a better and a greater inheritance beyond it. When about to die, he makes mention of the departure of Israel, and gives commandment concerning his bones. Thus, as a faithful servant, he closes his course, testifying of the proper object of hope; serving the people of God to the full, and according to their need, while he lived; and, when dying, leading them to the only true prospect and hope of their souls -- even the inheritance of the promised land. No present advantages must cloud or intercept this. Faith overlooks the brilliancy of present things, and faithfully serving his people to the end, he enjoins on them, with his latest breath, their proper hope and future course.

Thus terminated the career of one of the most disciplined and honoured of servants, after great trials, but greater successes; great sorrows, but greater joys; great humiliation, but greater exaltation; and a grateful study it is for every suffering servant of God -- to whom be praise for ever and ever.


The allusion which is made to Job in James 5:11, namely, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy", is enough to draw the attention of any earnest soul to the study of a history so fully recorded for us.

Job is at first presented to us as a pattern man, happy in his own condition, faithful and true in his relations toward God. We see in him a man who had on every side risen above the evil and sorrow which is the lot of man; a remarkable instance and exemplar among men of how God

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could distinguish from the rest of men -- one who walked before Him in integrity; he was for God on earth, and he was blessed abundantly by God. He was perfect and upright, one that feared God and eschewed evil, and as to possessions and earthly things, they were so abundant that this man was the greatest of all the men of the East.

It is important to see that Job was walking on the earth well-pleasing to God, and owned by Him as such, when Satan first called in question his fidelity, and imputed to him the unworthy motive which was couched in the question, "Doth Job serve God for nought?" It affords us the clue to a true apprehension of the nature of the discipline to which he was subjected, when we see that it was not primarily on account of personal failure, but the rather for the purpose of exemplifying to Satan the truth of God's estimate of His servant. It will be seen that much personal failure was betrayed by Job while under the divine discipline; for though the trials which he suffered were inflicted by Satan, and with the intent to verify his calumny on him, yet they were used of God to accomplish in Job that self-renunciation and faith in God which did eventually enable God to establish in full blessedness the truth of the estimate which He had, in His goodness, given of His servant. It is wonderful and most interesting to trace the way and manner in which the blessed God at once confounds Satan, vindicates His own judgment and educates His servant up to the full understanding of Himself, and having brought him to it, rebukes Satan by bestowing on Job twice as much as he had before.

We must seek to realise in our minds what it must have been for one in the circumstances in which Job was to be suddenly plunged into such reverses. We see him but a moment before enjoying the full circle of God's mercies, and at the same time maintaining a scrupulous conscientiousness with God; in the jealousy of his zeal rising up early in the morning, after the feasting of his sons, to offer up burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "It may be my sons have sinned, and cursed

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God in their hearts; and this he did continually". When every known point of the circle was thus carefully and with jealousy of heart toward God watched over, we might have expected, and doubtless Job had reckoned that there would have been no disturbance of the rest in which, through mercy, he was set. Doubtless, whatever might be the fears which, like clouds coursing the sky on the brightest day, beset him, he had no idea of the malignant spirit who, by aspersing him before God, only moves the blessed God to surrender him into Satan's hands, in order that He might, in the most unequivocal manner, prove his integrity and unshaken fidelity to Himself. We must also bear in mind that, while it is God's purpose, in His dealings with Job, to vindicate His own estimate of His servant, it is, at the same time, shewn us how He educates or disciplines that servant so as to render him worthy of this estimate.

It was at a moment when Job could little have expected it that the crash came. No doubt he often had his fears, for he says, "That which I feared greatly has come upon me;" and this must ever be the case when the soul has no better security for the love than the evidence and presence of its gifts. The gifts are thus a snare to us, and Satan's imputation against us is often in a measure true; our ground for rest and quietness of spirit before God being His kindness and mercies to us, and not simply the knowledge of His love. This is very evident, from the violent grief and despair many of His people fall into when they are deprived of any particular mercy. They had rested in the gift more than in God, and the gift was to them the evidence of His love; the love itself was not the rest of their heart. Satan knows man's tendency, and therefore hesitates not to accuse Job of it, asserting that he had no link with God, or reverence for Him, but on account of His abundant mercies to him. God, in His grace, had challenged Satan as to His servant, that there was none like him in all the earth. Satan retorts, imputing to Job a sordid motive for his allegiance, and asserting that if he were deprived of all which now attached him to

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God, he would curse Him to His face. The Lord, on this, in order to verify His own estimate of Job, and to render him worthy of this estimate, permits Satan to deprive him of all he has.

In one day, in quick succession, Job loses property, children, everything. Never was a catastrophe so rapid and so complete. "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped". He bears these first great waves of adversity in a most exemplary manner, and says, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord".

It is to be noted that a great accumulation of afflictions are better borne at first than afterwards. The strength that is in the heart, the confidence in God, is the resource where the crash is sudden and terrific; and in the rapidity with which Satan used his power, it appears to me he outwitted himself, for certainly sufferings with an interval between them are more trying. Satan, however, hoped that the crash would be so overwhelming that Job could not but reproach God for the calamity. But extreme difficulty always calls out the latent strength, as with a drowning man, where a lesser difficulty would not. The trial is not sufficient at times to rouse one to effort. It is when the effort has been drawn out by extreme difficulty and has proved unavailing that real helplessness is felt, and the cloud of despair invests the soul. Job had borne his troubles so well that the gracious God is able again to challenge Satan as to His estimate of His servant. Satan retorts, "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face". Of course it fills the cup of misery, if besides being deprived of everything my heart clings to, and the whole scene once so lovely and pleasing to me is now a waste -- with but tombs of my former enjoyments, if besides this I have become by bodily affliction a burden to myself!

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Surely bodily suffering and disease would in such a case be the bitterest way of reminding me of my utter desolation without heart or power to retrieve my condition. God permits Satan to afflict Job with the most grievous bodily suffering: he is smitten with sore boils from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot. How complete his misery! his wife is overwhelmed, and in her distress falls into Satan's snare, and counsels her husband to curse God and die. Thus everything is against Job. What a moment of exercise to his soul! How he must have wrought within himself as to hope in God! But every exercise, though the sufferer at the time little knows it, is strengthening the soul in God. The deeper the distress, the deeper the sense of His grace in relieving it; the one only makes a good rooting ground for the other.

Job bears up wonderfully at first. He rebukes his wife, saying, "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" But he is further tested. His friends come to mourn with and comfort him. If I am passing through discipline from God, which my most intimate friends and relatives do not understand, their intimacy and offers of help and comfort disturb and injure me rather than the reverse. This Job had to encounter with his wife on one side, and his three friends on the other; one on the ground of nature, the other on the ground of superior intelligence. What a scene it was! "When the friends lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him; for they saw that his grief was very great".

"After this Job opened his mouth and cursed his day". Under the weight of a terrible blow there is such utter exclusion from everything all round that there is no attempt to complain or to express oneself. And if the soul has confidence in God it is more shut up unto it, while the

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sufferer is unable to look at himself in relation to things here, and as he was among them. But the moment he awakes to the reality of his relation to everything here, himself must occupy him, unless he is done with self. The discipline is ministered in order to set aside self, and introduce the heart into its true relation apart from self with God. Hence the effect of the discipline is to expose the secret workings and feelings of self, which otherwise would not have been detected or known, and, if not known, not renounced. Job felt himself now a hapless one, with misery all around him, having outlived every enjoyment on earth, and he cursed his day. What had he lived for, and what should he live for? Little he knew the place he was occupying before God, or how God was preparing him, through terrible sufferings, to vindicate His own estimate of him to Satan. We have now to examine how God effects this His blessed purpose, noting the course which a soul under discipline from God necessarily takes in order to arrive at simple dependence and rest in Him.

The first thought, and the most bitter one, after awaking to a full sense of one's misery, is to curse one's day; a terrible impression, and the one which leads to suicide when God is not known. But when God is known, as in Job's case, it is the beginning of healthy action, not in the discontent and wretchedness which it discloses, but because the sense of death, utter exclusion from everything, is known and felt. I may give way to rebellion and discontent in learning the utter wretchedness of man on earth, but the sense of this is necessary to full self-renunciation. I ought not to blame God for it, but I need to realise it as man's true place. Death, because of such present misery, is preferred. To live in it has no attraction for the heart. This Job feels. He knows not that God seeks to make him a witness of dependence on Himself against Satan. But this is God's way. Discipline may have the effect of making us feel that death is preferable to life, but it is working out God's purposes.

To this experience Job receives a check in the reply of

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Eliphaz the Temanite. I think we should regard these three friends as representing to us the various exercises which engage our consciences when under this order of discipline. Eliphaz intimates to Job that he deserved these afflictions: "even as I have seen, they that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same and still more" (chapter 5: 17), that it is not even chastening, for if it were "He that maketh sore bindeth up;" thus insinuating that as He had not bound up, it was something more than chastening. In consequence of this Job is now (chapters 6, 7) not so much occupied with his misery as with his right to complain and endeavour to retort the suggestions of his friend. He gives us a history of his calamities, disappointment in his friends being added to the list -- occupied with self-vindication, though at the same time only the more convinced that his days are vanity, saying, "My soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than life". What lessons of anguish one has to learn before one sees the wisdom of renouncing self! What has not the soul to pass through in discipline in order that it may be brought to this! How tormented it is with one suggestion or another, which never could reach or trouble it only for the amount of self which exists. It is the possibility of the truth of a charge which makes it painful and irritating.

Bildad replies. This is another exercise to Job.

It is well for us to have recorded in God's word an account of the unexplainable exercises through which we pass when learning the nothingness of man in himself -- suggestions claiming to be friends, afflicting us still more sorely. Bildad here severely reproves Job, telling him that the words of his mouth are like a strong wind, and that if he were pure and upright God would awake for him; thus throwing him still more on himself, and implying that his trials are judicial requitals for sin, and not, as really was the case, the discipline of God leading him to the full end of himself. He is now no longer so much overwhelmed with his misery as occupied in righting himself in the sight of his friends. Painful and cruel work is it

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to the spirit to repel charges made by friends of deserving irretrievable misery. Job knew that he had done nothing to deserve it; but what he had to learn was that he was entitled to nothing, and this his friends knew no more than he; they stood entirely on righteousness.

Job now owns the greatness of God. He is turned Godward: yet while he owns the greatness of God and His power, he uses it only to shew the distance that is between himself and God; even that they cannot meet on equal terms; but that if they could, he should not fear. It is evident his soul has a link with God, but his friends have occupied him with God as a judge, intimating that the deprivation of temporal mercies is a punishment for sin, which implies, of course, that the gift of them is the contrary. In this new exercise he sees God's greatness, and does not see God's care for himself: as under His hand; what (he argues) can he avail? He sees no reason in it, regards it as arbitrary, and implies that if he had a daysman who could place them on a common footing, he could make good his case; but as it is, there is no hope. "Oh", he cries, "that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me!"

Zophar replies, endeavouring to convict him, pressing on him that God "exacteth less of thee than thine iniquity deserveth;" and if there were no iniquity, there would be present mercies. "Thou shouldest lift thy face without spot, and take thy rest in safety". Zophar makes man's acts the measure of God's dealings. He does not see the evil of man in himself, and his consequent distance from God, as without title to any blessing. Job replies. What little way a soul makes when occupied with self-justification! The friends had stung him with reproaches, that his afflictions must be on account of sin. Job, unconscious of any evil that would warrant such suffering, denies it. The reproaches which the Lord bore without reply, though unjustly heaped upon Him, Job rebuts, because he has not seen himself as he is before God. He is only judging himself as a man would, and as his friends ought,

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who really were on no higher ground than himself. God's sovereignty accounts to him for everything. He sees no purpose of grace in God's ways with him, and yet it is evident his soul is gaining ground, for he exclaims, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him", and a gleam of hope bursts in on his path, for he adds, "Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands". What a season when the soul passes through all this exercise and anguish in order to emerge from self-satisfaction and to rest only in God! yet God's way is perfect, as the end always proves.

Eliphaz replies. (chapter 15) He waxes severe and unmeasured in his efforts to convince Job that he and his companions have wisdom, and therefore they are right in their statements that God is now dealing with men according to their merits, that the wicked man travaileth with pain all his days; and he adds, "a dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him".

Unless we study the exercises of our own hearts we can hardly estimate the heart rending which these censures must have caused Job. They turned him in the wrong direction: they engaged him with himself. He could not deny that he was afflicted; he did not see, measuring himself with man, that he had done any act to subject himself to so great affliction; and his friends harassed him, directing and confining his mind to this one point, that God's doings were all according to man's acts, and therefore, as he suffered so much, he must have been wicked in an extraordinary degree. Job resists (chapter 16), and pronounces his friends "miserable comforters;" and so they were. "Though I speak", he cries, "my grief is not assuaged: and though I forbear, what am I eased?" He has now the bitterest of feelings, even that God had delivered him to the ungodly. He tastes of our Lord's sufferings as a man. Who can comprehend the bitterness of sorrow that now devours the soul of Job! "My friends scorn me", he exclaims, "but mine eye poureth

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out tears to God". In all his sense of the terribleness of his affliction and suffering, there drops out now and again the link, that, as a regenerate soul, he has with God. He has not as yet seen himself in the sight of God; and therefore he maintains (verse 17), "Not for any injustice in my hands: also my prayer is pure;" and therefore he looks to plead with God, as a man pleadeth with his neighbour. He has a partial sense of God's greatness; but he has not the sense of His holiness, and the reason of this is, that he has never been near enough to God; for it is nearness to Him that produces the sense of His holiness. Therefore he concludes that if he could plead with Him, he must be acquitted. We see thus what terrible distress of soul arises from estimating sufferings from God's hands according to man, that is, looking manward in respect of them. How much of Job's self is before his mind! He feels that he is a "byword of the people". "Upright men shall be astonished at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite". To such thoughts as these death can be the only release. "If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness".

Bildad replies (chapter 18) in angry and reproachful terms, and in a pointed way traces step by step the course of the wicked; first, "taken in a snare, because his own counsel hath cast him down, until he shall have neither son nor nephew among his people. Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him that knoweth not God". Well might Job reply -- thus goaded with the assertion that he knew not God -- "How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?" What a wonderful time for the soul, when with conscience and faith in God it seeks to justify itself, amid all the affliction and sorrow which here judicially and righteously is the common lot of all, and still more when they are for discipline. Job repels the accusation of having been taken in his own snare, saying, "Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net". He

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ascribes it to God, but cannot see any reason for it. But with all this probing of the wound in the increased sense of being unduly afflicted by God, his spirit is nevertheless strengthening in hope, as we may discover in his words, "I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God".

Chapter 20. -- Zophar now in the most emphatic manner presents to job the utter and overwhelming ruin of the wicked. He denounces him without pity. Heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. Job replies (chapter 21), detailing the prosperity of the wicked in order to shew that Zophar must be in error, and yet he knows that the reproaches of his friends are unfounded; he has no clear idea of God's will or of any order of purpose in His dealings -- knowing nothing more than He is omnipotent and can do as He likes, without being able to see that He always has a distinct end before Him for every one of His ways. "Known to God are all his works from the foundation of the world". "How then", he retorts, "comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?"

Chapter 22. -- Eliphaz now for the last time addresses him, and endeavours to make an impression upon him by the enormity of his charges. "Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?" reiterating again that false principle, so ready to the carnal mind with reference to God's dealings, that He gives the gold and the silver to them who return to Him. "If thou return to the Almighty thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles. Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks". (verse 23.)

Now in chapters 23 and 24 there are two points which come out: the first, that Job is sensible of his distance from God, and while sensible of it, desires to be brought near. It is the true exercise of a quickened soul -- groping,

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as it were, in darkness for what it yearns after. "Behold", he says, "I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him". With this there is sense of the unchangeableness of God's purpose. "He is in one mind, and who can turn him?" And yet the true fear, the solemn effect of His presence, is not unknown, for he says, "I am troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him". The second point is that Job turns his eyes on men; he has not found rest or acceptance for himself with God, and now he looks at men; and he sees that the wicked prosper in the world; yet they have their secret sorrows, and death checks their career. But at this stage of his experience he is not so much magnifying himself; he seeks to be near God, but fears His presence, because not at rest or in acceptance. Varied indeed are the exercises which a soul must be put through while refusing to see the completeness of its ruin in the sight of God.

Chapter 25. -- Bildad concludes his strictures, reiterating the greatness of God and uncleanness of man, as if there could be no ground of reparation between them. Bitter words to a worn one seeking for standing ground with God, whom in his spirit he knew and believed in.

Chapters 27 - 31. -- Job now gives a summary of his state, etc., as he is in himself, and also as to his apprehension of God. The greatness of God creationally comes before him; but this never makes the soul conscious of the character of its distance from God; hence in the next chapter we have Job maintaining his integrity. If not in the light I must maintain my integrity, unless I have broken some law -- done some overt act; so here Job thus seeks to relieve himself from the reproach of being stricken of God. In chapter 28, where he finely describes wisdom, it is interesting to mark how, under all the pressure, his soul is advancing in true light and knowledge, and that thus the discipline is effective. The more I see the wisdom of God and His way (as one does sometimes when under pressure) the more depressed I shall become, if not able to connect myself acceptably with God, and, as

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a consequence, I turn back on my own history and become occupied with myself. Thus Job in chapter 29 dwells on the past, and this is always an evidence of the soul not being right with God; for if it were going on with Him it would have greater things than the past to recount. This is especially the case when what it has to recall is self -- amiability and God's gifts and goodness, which made up the sum of the young ruler's possessions; Mark 10. If I have a sense of sin from having been a transgressor, then retrospection is necessarily shorn of its charms; but when in misery the soul can recall a time of uninterrupted blamelessness of life and conduct -- the light of God's favour in His gifts shed around it -- such a retrospect is attractive and engrossing to the heart. Job's time was before the land of Canaan was given, and hence, as a Gentile, he is learning the evil of himself, not by law but in the presence of God, and having lived if in all good conscience, he found it no easy matter to count all as dung and dross. He is allowed to dwell on it in order to shew us how the righteousness which is of ourselves may engage and hinder us, and yet, on the other hand, how utterly futile was the course of Job's friends adopted to help him to a true estimate of himself before God, and according to God Himself. Thus, still occupied with himself, Job in chapter 29 dwells on his former prosperity, while in chapter 31 he goes seriatim, over the goodness of his whole course and ways, judging according to man's judgment, and after it all he sums up thus: "My desire is, that the Almighty would answer me". Such are the exercises of a soul which, without having done anything to offend the natural conscience, has not seen itself in the light of God's presence, and therefore knows not the corruption of its nature. If the natural conscience could have found wherewithal to convict, its action might have been easy and summary; but where the moral sense is not offended, a lengthened process is required for the soul ere it can reach a spiritual sense -- that is, an estimate of itself formed in the light of God's presence.

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We now come to another epoch in this interesting history. We have traced briefly and inadequately the patient, searching process by which God leads a soul to discover its utter ruin in His sight. The example before us is one against whom no one could bring any charge. As far as works went God Himself could challenge Satan and assert that there was none like Job in all the earth: an upright man and one that eschewed evil. But while either to man's eye or Satan's eye there was nothing to blame or censure in Job, God would have Job know that in His sight he was utterly corrupt and lost. To learn this is most painful and. bitter work to nature. Nature must die. Job begins by feeling that death would be preferable to life, all being misery here. He then, both from his own mens conscia recti, and also his knowledge of God's ways (while tortured by the unjust reproaches and surmisings of his friends as to his concealed guilt), rebuts the doctrine which they upheld, even that God rules and determines things for man according to man's works here; that He has no other principles of government, and that man's acts suggest to God a course of action, thus placing God without a purpose, and only like an ordinary sovereign legislating according to the vicissitude of circumstances. Job by all this exercise is strengthened in two points which only add the more to his perplexity. He is the more deeply convinced of the sovereignty of God, and that all power is from Him, and, secondly, as his friends have failed to touch his conscience, he is bolder in self-justification.

Chapter 32. -- At this juncture Elihu comes in. This servant of God comes, as we shall see, from God's side, and supplies now to Job the teaching he so much needed. We are not aware often of the severe process of soul which we must pass through before we are prepared to hear of God from His own side. We may have to weary ourselves in very darkness before we are ready to hear the word of light; for light comes from God only: He (Christ) is the "light which lighteth every man which cometh into the world". All reasoning from man's side, as Job's friends

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had done, only occupied him the more with himself, and provoked his self-vindication, while it necessarily made him more sensible of the distance between himself and God, and therefore deepened in his soul the need of God. Elihu now shews that it is not true what Job had asserted: that God acts arbitrarily, that "he findeth occasions against me". His first argument is, that God is stronger than man. "Why dost thou strive against him?" "He giveth not account of his matters".

The first great thing for a soul is to humble itself under the mighty hand of God. This Job had not yet done. But furthermore; adds Elihu, God in dreams deals with man "that he may withdraw man from his purpose". How gracious, that when all is in the stillness of sleep, God should shew His wakeful interest for man, and warn him in dreams God is full of mercy, as we see; (verses 23 - 28.) When there is confession on the ground of God's righteousness, there is mercy and salvation from God. All these things worketh God oftentimes with man. We get in the case of Isaac an example of the convulsion that occurs when the truth of God regains its power and rule in the soul. He trembled with an exceeding great trembling. Job must now learn this; he had allowed his own mind to judge God, instead of submitting himself to God and waiting for instruction from Him.

Chapter 34. -- The next point with Elihu is that God must be righteous. Job had said that he himself was righteous, and that God had taken away his judgment. If God were not righteous, yea, the fountain of righteousness, how could He govern? "Shall even he that hateth right govern?" "Surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment". "Who hath given him a charge over the earth?" Elihu exhorts Job to understand that God is righteous, and in His righteousness He can act as He will. "He will not lay upon men more than is right, that he should enter into judgment with God". Seeing this to be so, the true place for Job was that of confession. "Surely it is meet to be said unto

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God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more". Though these varied lessons, these progressive steps in the history of a soul, are presented to us as one continued unbroken tale, we must bear in mind that there are often long and suffering intervals while each step is being learned. It is the order of their succession that is presented to us here, rather than the suffering which the soul goes through in learning them.

In chapter 35 Elihu touches on a new point, namely, that God is infinitely above man; that man's works can in no wise affect Him. Job must learn that "If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?" "If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God". There ought to be perception of the goodness that cometh from God; but on the contrary, "none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?" -- when all around is darkness. Job had dwelt on what he was to God, not on what God was to him. And then, "Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it".

In chapter 36 another point is pressed on Job, even that if he looks at things from God's side, he must see His righteousness. Job ought to understand that "He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous" -- "He openeth also their ear to discipline" -- "He delivereth the poor in his affliction". Here it was that Job had failed; he had been occupied in justifying himself, instead of having his ear opened to discipline. "Behold, God is great". There is an immense advance in the soul when it comes to this, and regards things distinctly as from God's side. When I have a true sense of what He is, the effect must be to humble myself under His mighty hand, and to wait on Him.

In chapter 37 Elihu leads Job into further contemplation of what God is in His greatness and in His works: just as the Lord said, "Believe me for my very works' sake". And this is the introduction, if I may so say, for what we shall find in the next chapter, when God Himself addresses Job

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apart from any recognised instrumentality, instructing him in His own greatness and power. Job has listened to Elihu, and now prepared for Gods voice, God in His mercy deals directly and closely with his soul, How deep and solemn the exercise when the soul, alone with God, is in His wondrous grace and mercy taught by Him the majesty and goodness of Himself.

In chapter 38 we read, "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind", and calls on him to ponder and consider. "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" "Through faith we understand that the worlds were formed by the word of God". This is the beginning of faith, as also that he that cometh to God must believe that He is. Job did believe in God as existing, but his faith was not simple and fixed in the might of God -- in His greatness. He is now called to consider whether he could explain or know the origin of any of God's works. Could he reach or comprehend them? God challenges him, "Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?" In the material world God proves Job to be ignorant of the origin of any of His works, and now, in chapter 39 he is required to ponder how unable he is to rule over the animal world. Be it the unicorn, the horse or the eagle, each and all are superior to Job in strength. How much more He who created and gave them their qualities, ought not He to command supremely Job's reverence and fear! "Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?" (chapter 40). Now it is that Job feels the force of the divine word. Then Job answered the Lord and said, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further".

He is now brought to a sense of his vileness; but only so far as this, that he will be silent; for he knows not how to answer. He feels condemned, but has not yet reached simple self-renunciation. One may have a sense of vileness, and inability to answer, and yet hope to improve. It

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may be only a pause to recover from the conviction which the word of God must effect in the soul stunned but not subdued. If the sense of ruin and vileness were complete, there would be no promise of improvement or expression that one was doing something better now than heretofore. Hence the voice of God still addresses Job, and he is subjected to the divine challenge again; chapters 40, 41. This time God presses upon him that behemoth, the leviathan, is a greater creature by many degrees than he; "Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear", and for this purpose, the variety and order of God's ways with regard to this strange and mighty being, is brought before the soul of Job, who feels himself in the presence of God and is confounded. Now it is that he arrives at the end desired of God in all the discipline to which He has been subjecting him. Job now seeing God forms a true estimate of himself, and repents in dust and ashes. The blameless man, in nature good, and as a man upright, when brought into the presence of God abhors himself. As a man he has whereof he may boast; he may justify himself to his fellows, but not before God. Before and in the presence of God he can claim nothing, expect nothing, and feel himself entitled to nothing. In the sight of God's holy eye his only consciousness of self is to abhor himself and repent in dust and ashes.

Job has now done with himself. Happy fruit and consummation of all discipline! And so completely is he freed from himself that, before there is any relief from the circumstances and trial which had been the proximate cause of all his misery and soul-exercise, and which Satan had brought upon him to prove his hollowness, he can pray for his friends. Superior to his own sufferings, he thinks of his friends before God, and then it is that the Lord turns the captivity of Job, proving (and how deeply we may lay it to heart!) that "the end of the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy". Amen.

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Moses being in a special sense the type of Him who is the Great Servant of all, we should be prepared to find his history marked by a discipline peculiarly fitted to set aside his nature, and to make room for the expression of that grace and service which was exemplified in perfection in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Born (Exodus 2) at the period when Pharaoh's interdict against the male children of Israel is in force, no exception is made in favour of him; he enters on the earth to find that a place on the earth is denied him. There was no room for the Lord of glory even in an inn; and Egypt's king enacts that His type, Moses, should die the moment he is born! By faith only his parents rescued him. "They saw he was a goodly child, and were not afraid of the king's commandment". They knew, by that deep and peculiar conviction which faith imparts, that God was to be trusted for this child. Faith in God thus bears him into life. How must he in riper years have derived strength from this godly acting of his parents, and have been indebted to them for this their first training of him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord! The commencement of our course gives a colour to the whole; and the earliest tuition we receive in the divine school gives a mould and a tone to our characters which after years can never obliterate. Moses' existence on the earth was secured to him only the faith of his parents. He was hid three months. Sorely must their faith have exercised during those ninety days, but they endured; and then in the ark of bulrushes they consign him to the waters.

All place on earth being denied him, the older he grew the more difficult it became to screen him from the ruthless edict. When we act in faith, and have endured sufficiently, so as to establish our souls in the assurance that it is faith, then the Spirit which gives us the faith gives us also wisdom how to act. In this wisdom the parents of

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Moses now act. Faith does not ignore the affections; but it loves to sustain that which, acting alone, would be too anxious and distracted; it supports the heart in quiet, unfailing persistence in the conviction and purpose which it inculcates.

From his perilous position in the ark of bulrushes, Moses, the weeping babe, is taken; and that by no less a person than the daughter of him who would have been his destroyer; but not before the impression of the coldness of this world had been made upon his tender spirit. We read, "the babe wept". Thus, in earliest age, before the mind could be intelligently impressed, is he made to taste of that sorrow and desolation to which he must be no stranger throughout his course. The mind of the babe could not recall it, but the soul, nevertheless, consciously entered on that line in which it was afterwards to be so exercised, and his tears were, no doubt, the first-fruits of a sorrow with which in after life he was so deeply conversant. But the answer to this is the Lord's tender care and consideration for him; and this we see exemplified in the most touching and interesting way. Not only is the daughter of his enemy made the instrument of his deliverance, but he is consigned to the care of his own mother, and then installed in Pharaoh's house in ease and honour. The desolation of the world and the unfailing compassions of God are the first lessons of discipline traced on his unconscious mind -- lessons which are never to be erased, for God teaches early, deeply and enduringly.

The interval which intervenes between this first notice and the next, when Moses is "full forty years", is briefly, but significantly, summed up as the time during which he was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in word and deed. He was brought up in all the attractions of Egypt in order that in relinquishing them he might have sympathy with any extent of surrender which the people of God might be called to. Others might have much to surrender, but none so much as he. If the people felt it hard to relinquish the leeks and the onions,

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how much more was it for Moses to turn from all the luxuries and honours of Pharaoh's court in which he had moved! Thus, in God's discipline and education, he was being prepared for the leadership with which he was to be invested by-and-by. The magnitude of his own surrender qualified him to call others to follow him in it; his own personal renunciation of all Egypt's attractions entitled him to be the leader out of Egypt; for if he "chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin", he did so after having participated in their greatest magnificence. And, more than this, by this education he was made conversant with everything that was delectable in nature, and had experiences of what nature could yield in a way which none of the previous characters which we have been considering could have known. Not Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or even Joseph, had such a training as this; neither was it necessary for them, for none of them were intended for such a mission as Moses, and God's education and discipline with His people is always adapted to its peculiar end. Solomon tasted the vanity of everything on earth; the Lord Jesus felt it in His own moral perfection; Moses is surrounded by it to mature age, and then refuses it.

It is worthy of note that no leader of God's people suffers less than the people whom he is called to lead. Human leaders may rise to command and position in many ways; but the leaders of God's people can only rise in one way, that is, through suffering. The power to endure and encounter every liability and obstruction resting on the people is first proved and maintained by the leader; and then he can lead them in assured confidence in God, by whose power he has overcome.

And now it comes into Moses' heart to visit his brethren. A right purpose moves him in a right direction; but we are not always morally prepared for the expression of our purposes, even though they be right ones. There must be strength and maturity before there can be fruit-bearing. And hence, though the desire be a true one, there will be

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delay and discipline until one is morally equal to the task, according to God, which the purpose indicates.

When Peter first proposed to follow (John 13) the Lord, He warned him that he could not do so then; but, on the contrary, that he would deny him. But when Peter was fully restored, and had his soul strengthened in the love of Christ, the Lord lets him know (John 21:18, 19) that he is to follow Him, and that the desire which he once so fearlessly and ignorantly avowed he should yet distinctly substantiate. Thus it is with Moses here. He had got the right idea and desire, but he had not learned from God the right way of sustaining and establishing it. He knows not the trials which beset his path, and consequently he has no provision to meet them when they occur. His attempt only proves how insufficient are his resources for the work he had entered on, and he has at last to abandon it, and to relinquish that on which his heart was set, the inevitable consequence of attempting to carry out a right purpose with our own resources.

Moses fails, as it might be expected, and, not only so, but his own life is in jeopardy, and for very personal safety he must fly. We read, "Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and sat down by a well". What an accumulation of distressing feelings must this zealous servant of God have endured! What anguish to a faithful heart to be thus baffled in its sincere attempts to serve his brethren! Must not all his sacrifices, and his surrender of the glories of Egypt, have appeared to him now as useless to others, and unprofitable to himself, as he sat there, a wanderer and an exile, like a blighted, fruitless tree in the desert. But if such were Moses' thoughts, they were nor God's. The mission was not forfeited, but only postponed. He was not yet "meet for the Master's use". Nature was not sufficiently set aside. On the other hand, God's time to deliver His people had not come, neither were the people themselves prepared for the deliverance. But our subject is Moses himself, and he, as God's instrument and servant for the

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work, needs forty years more preparation ere he can be thus used. And already, sitting by the well in the land of Midian, is he under that discipline which will form him for the great service designed for him in the counsel of God.

Forty years of exiledom are appointed for him; but whether those forty years should be one uninterrupted season of sorrow and gloom, or whether they should be mitigated by sources of solace and cheer, depends on the manner in which the disciplined one receives the discipline. Will he bow himself and accept the will of the Lord? Will he prove himself here in principle and heart a deliverer of the distressed, as well as of his own people? If he will, he accepts God's discipline, and therefore his lot may be less trying and oppressive. The moment there is subjection to discipline it becomes effective and may be relaxed. It may not, perhaps, be removed, but the scene may be brightened. And thus was it with Moses. He acts the part of a deliverer to the women at the well, who were driven away by the shepherds. Although it has been denied him to declare himself such as in a large circle, he does not refuse it in a very insignificant one; he does not brood in listless sorrow over his own reverses, like the fool, eating his own flesh; but he submits to his circumstances and rises above his own feelings in his interest to serve others. Until I am superior to trial, I must be under the power of it, and, while under it, I cannot be free to serve with that whole-heartedness and cheerfulness of spirit which is always the mainspring of service. Nothing more proves our having a divine mission than the ease and readiness to render it in the most retired as much as in the most attractive and congenial sphere. And when we fully surrender ourselves to the position the Lord has ordered for us, serving Him therein, He makes the desert land (the place of discipline) to brighten up, and provides rest and solace in that on which we entered in sorrow and desolation of heart.

At first Moses' service to these Midianitish women meets no requital, even as Joseph's to the chief butler;

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but it must not remain so. Reuel, their father, sends for him, in virtue of his service to his daughters, provides a home for him, and gives him his daughter Zipporah to wife; and we read, "She bare him a: son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land". This name reveals to us the secret sorrow of Moses. Though provided with a home, he still felt himself a stranger in a strange land; therefore his son, who linked him to the scene, must bear a name which will remind him of his exiled condition, a remembrance which no present mercies could exclude. They could not obliterate his deep and earnest purpose to deliver his people. Nor SHOULD they; for, as we have said before, the purpose was right, yea, divine; but he was denied its expression until more prepared for it. Paul could not adequately express what he receives and exults in for more than fourteen years afterwards, and not till he is in prison at Rome is he fully prepared and fitted for doing so.

For forty years, then, does Moses fulfil his daily toil, perfecting subjection to the will of God. Useful and exemplary in the common duties of life, the qualifications which he demonstrated as a servant were a sure indication of his possessing those of a leader, for none can rule well who have not learned to serve.

His occupation -- seeking a pasturage for the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, was evidently a toilsome one. In the natural routine of it (chapter 3) he leads the flock to the backside of the desert, and comes to the mountain of God, even to Horeb, little thinking, no doubt, that the days of his exile were about to close. The moment had come when God could use him, and that according to the desire which had induced him, so many years previously, to attempt the deliverance of his brethren from the yoke of Egypt. And now we have to consider the closing scene of that long period of preparation which the Lord in His wisdom saw fit to order for His servant, and one which He is about to insure by the revelation of Himself. "The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of

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a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed". Moses' attention is arrested. Though occupied with his natural duties, they did not incapacitate him from recognising the manifestations of the Lord. Nor need they ever. On the contrary, if rightly entered on, they guarantee assiduity in higher duties. The shepherds watching their flocks by night are the witnesses chosen of God for recording the greatest manifestation ever made to earth. It is one of the greatest proofs of subjection to God to fulfil our daily toil patiently and perfectly, and yet to have the eye ever ready to observe the ways of God, which I apprehend is the force of that exhortation connected with prayer -- "Watching thereunto with all perseverance", etc. And this is the effect of a single eye, one that has the Lord's glory simply and wholly as its object.

"And Moses said, I will turn aside to see this great sight; and when the Lord saw that he turned" (when it was evident that he desired to know the meaning of the divine ways), "God called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I". The revelation of the Lord here is in grace; in a flame of fire, but not consuming; the glory of God coming near to man, and man finding nothing but mercy and loving-kindness flowing from it. And yet it was holy ground, and only unshod worshippers could draw near to it. It was, moreover, an expression of God drawing near to man, and not of man drawing near to God.

Thus the Lord presents Himself in a flame of fire in a bush and reveals His tender feelings and interest for Israel. How grateful must such communications have been to Moses! After the long and dreary interval in which it seemed God had forgotten His people, he is told of the infinite love and interest with which He had regarded them all through and of His gracious purpose of delivering them. And now Moses is conscious of his inability for such a service. He sees that it is not his own feelings that he is to act on or to gratify, but Jehovah's, the One who,

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though before him in a flame of fire, will not consume him; and the vastness of whose eternal love and mercy must have contrasted strongly with the impulsive and erring impetuosity with which he had demonstrated his own forty years before. He is now deeply sensible of his own incompetency, and says, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" God will reassure, instruct and prepare him: and we read in chapter 4 how this is done. He first communicates His intention and purpose to His servant. This must reassure him; not only in the proof of confidence which it evinces, but the servant entering into the mind of God is more ready and prepared to undertake the service when the whole process and issue of it are detailed to him. But more than this (for the teaching of God is perfect), Moses is made to feel in himself the power of God. The link must be established between his own soul and God before he can fully enter into that between the people and God; and this soul-assuring lesson he is taught in three different ways. First, he is made to feel his possession of power, superior to that before which his nature would succumb. His rod being turned into a serpent (the symbolical form of Satan), Moses fled from it, but the Lord causes him to grasp it, and it becomes the rod of power in his hand. Secondly, he learns that if his hand is leprous God can present it sound again; and thirdly, he is taught that the water of the river (the great source of blessing) if poured on the dry land by him should become blood, shewing that God would judge the land. In all these three points he is instructed, in order that he might be qualified for the mission entrusted to him, and also feel himself equal for it.

Moses still demurs. Though strengthened in soul he is deficient in utterance; but God is gracious and considerate in preparing His servant for the work in small things as well as in great; the sense of infirmity continues, as with Paul, but He counteracts it. Aaron is provided as a mouthpiece, and all being arranged, "he took his wife and

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his sons, and set them upon an ass, and returned to the land of Egypt with the rod of God in his hand". How different from the manner in which he had left it, and how indicative is the contrast of what those forty years of discipline must have wrought in and for him! Instead of an ignominious flight, fearing for his own life, the result of previous self-confidence and acting for his brethren, but independently of God, he now comes small and weak in his own eyes, but invested with the power of God, in the calm easy dignity of one who, feels that his only strength is in dependence on Jehovah, whose service he is about to enter.

But ere this can be done fully there is one more question (chapter 4: 24) which must be settled between the Lord and Moses. And this gives us a remarkable instance of the exaction of God's holiness in His discipline. Either from compromising to the Midianites, or despairing of ever again associating with his own nation, Moses had neglected to circumcise his son; and now, without repairing his error, which was a great one, he proceeds to enter on the Lord's service as if it were a matter of indifference. But no; he must learn that nothing can be over looked in one called to serve. His responsibility must be equal to his calling. The Lord seeks to kill him; so inflexible is His holiness and so strict is He in demanding obedience to His laws, and especially from one who fills the post of servant. His wife repairs the inconsistency, but she does so reproachfully, and returns into her own country, while Moses pursues his way in company with Aaron.

What a finishing lesson was this on the very eve of his long-wished-for service! What an impression it must have made on his soul as the long-desired morning, with all its interests, was breaking in upon him! No eminence in service, no amount of knowledge in the deepest things of God, will excuse his overlooking any of God's commandments. Nay, he must feel that as to him much was given much would be required. Implicit obedience to the word must mark the life and ways of the most eminent and best

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instructed of servants. And with this, Moses' last lesson in this stage of his history -- one, moreover, which he had been severely taught -- he passes on to the field of his labours. Emerging from the solitudes of Midian he is to stand as God's witness before Pharaoh. Being prepared and made ready in a private school, as it were, he is now to demonstrate in a large and useful sphere the result of his tuition.

We have now to look at the varied exercises which Moses passes through in fulfilling his service. We have glanced at those which qualified him for service; but the servant of God needs a continuance of discipline to keep him ever and anon in dependence on God. With Moses this new order of discipline commences very early, indeed we may say immediately, on his entrance into the path of service.

Accompanied by Aaron (chapter 5), he presents himself to Pharaoh, and announces God's summons to let His people go; but not only does Pharaoh refuse to comply, but he increases the burdens of the people in consequence of the demand. Here, then, was a disheartening commencement to a servant in his noviciate, after making a just appeal, and conscious that his message was from God. All it seems to effect is an open disavowal of God's rights, and an augmentation of the people's sorrows. Nor was this all. The people themselves do not hesitate to reproach him as the cause of their increased troubles; the more sad and severe to him, doubtless were these upbraidings because they came from the very people whom he desired to serve. What can he do in such a strait? He returns to the Lord and in bitterness of spirit refers the difficulty and discouragement to Him, the consequence of which is, that another page of instruction is opened to him. This was a moment for that peculiar discipline in a servant's life, which, when effective, enables him to pursue his service independent of results. The general tendency is to judge service to be efficient if the results are satisfactory, and vice versa: but the real servant must keep his eye only on

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his Master's word, and leave the result to Him. Even as the Lord, who, when He felt that His word and works were in vain, so that He reproached the cities where most of His mighty works were done, turns to the Father and says, "Father, I thank thee, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes".

Moses must learn this selfsame spirit or his service will not be supported by faith, but by successful results. A man without faith is double-minded, and a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.

The Lord's instructions to him on this point are detailed in Exodus 6. He is there brought into an enlarged knowledge of God as a preliminary to all further instructions. The more we know of God, the easier it is to depend on Him. "Acquaint thyself with God, and be at peace", and the deeper our acquaintance with Him, the greater is our calm and steady dependence on Him.

God, as Jehovah, the covenant-God, here reveals Himself to Moses, a revelation not made to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, for none of them were called into the same line of service, or conflict with adverse powers. With them God had established His covenant to give Israel the land of Canaan, etc., and this covenant He now brings forward in addition to a fresh revelation of Himself, in order to confirm the soul of Moses, and enable him to bear up against casual reverses, assured that the result would be satisfactory, because it rested on God's word and covenant.

In a measure reassured, Moses presents himself to the children of Israel, but they hearken not to him for anguish of spirit and cruel bondage; and, still unequal to the service, he replies, when the Lord tells him to go again unto Pharaoh, "Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me, and how shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?" He had suffered so much from his attempts to deliver in the energy of nature forty years before, that he is now more prone to despond, and the further he enters upon service, the more does he find out

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its difficulties and his own lack of qualifications for it. But the Lord will make His servant perfect and happy in His work; and accordingly He now gives Moses and Aaron a "CHARGE unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt". The CHARGE is the preliminary to service. No certainty of character and purpose will do without it, "That which is committed unto thee" (as Paul wrote to Timothy), is that which gives distinctiveness and point to our service. A man who knows not what his line of service is can never expect to fulfil it or adequately to pursue it; but when he knows that he has received from the Lord a charge or line of work there is the sense of trust and the responsibility of trust. This charge is now given to Moses (verse 13), but still he feels his own insufficiency; and, mark! according as he is made to feel it, is he supplied from God with that which will counteract it.

First, he is made to rely on Jehovah, the covenant-God, who had bound Himself to bring this people unto the land of Canaan.

Secondly, a distinct charge is given to him, and if he believes that he is acting for Jehovah he has now the prescribed result and effect of his mission, his appointed work marked out for him; and,

Thirdly (chapter 7), to silence every hesitation and sense of unfitness, he is invested with power. The Lord says to him, "See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh", and still more, he is commanded to repeat unto Pharaoh the miracle which had before reassured his own soul at the burning bush -- that of transforming his rod into a serpent. There, however (that is, at the burning bush), he was made to take the serpent in his hand in order that his own individual faith might be established; here the object is more to exhibit Moses before Pharaoh as invested with the power of God, so that this part of the miracle is not repeated.

This gracious instruction of the Lord perfects the discipline necessary for Moses' soul, in order to enter on his service so fully and fixedly that nothing can divert him

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from it, or make him doubt as to the result according to God: and after this he fulfils it with faithful and unflinching labour, strong in the power of God before Pharaoh, and without reproach from his brethren, until he reaches the grand result of this first stage of his service, namely, the deliverance of the people out of Egypt. From the time that his soul was thus really established in service until the night of the passover, when he with the people marched out of the land of captivity, was an interval highly honourable to Moses. But we do not dwell on it, as he was then acting interruptedly as God's instrument, the effect of the previous discipline which we have noticed, but no fresh phases of individual exercise are brought out.

Behold, then, the Israelites having left Egypt with a high hand encamped between Migdol and the sea! And what a testing there awaited them. What a crisis to Moses at the moment of the successful issue of his toil and anxiety! Success was all but attained when apparently insurmountable obstacles present themselves; Pharaoh with his host on one side, the sea with its raging waters on the other, and once more he is challenged by the unbelieving multitude for having brought them there to die, because there were no graves in Egypt. But how calm and strong in faith is Moses at this critical moment! How different from the timorous notices we have had of him before! "Fear not", says he, "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord". That is what he himself had learnt during his forty years of discipline. Nature was to stand still and faith to wait for God's salvation. He first calms the people, and then cries unto God himself. The scene describes one of the most important exercises in which a faithful guide to God's people is schooled -- namely, to maintain unswerving confidence in God's succour in moments of embarrassment, and at the same time to receive from God the power and mode by which this succour can be successfully directed. He does both: he calms the people and honours the Lord by expressing the fullest confidence in Him, and then, looking to Him to realise his faith, he is directed by Him as to

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how the succour is to be afforded. How fully and blessedly is this direction given! "Speak to the children- of Israel, that they go forward: but lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the sea", etc. What a strength and elevation this event must have afforded Moses; and how must such an extremity have taught him afresh the wisdom and magnitude of God's resources; and what a result! We read, "the people believed the Lord and his servant Moses".

In chapter 15: 23 - 26 we see him passing through another exercise, and of a different order. Scarcely had the last note of triumph died away when the people murmur against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?" The servant of God must be prepared for every shade of trial and disappointment. No matter what the amount of his services, he must expect no appreciation of them from the congregation, or at best be prepared to do without it and look to the Lord alone. Moses must have felt this deeply after the song of praise that had just passed their lips; but by such means and discipline the faithful servant is led into fellowship in spirit, and in power, too, with God's best and greatest Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ. He cries unto the Lord, and again is he instructed in the amplitude and perfection of God's resources for every variety of man's need. What a distinguished place to be the medium through which all these mercies flow! The exercise and pressure may be very great for a moment. It may be Marah; sowing indeed with tears, but it is only to "reap in joy". If the servant finds that there is not a moment in which he may rest from service on account of the people of God, he is, on the other hand, made acquainted in the deepest and truest way with the resources of God, and is also made the channel of those resources himself. Thus it was with Moses here; he is told to cast the tree into the waters, and they are made sweet.

In chapter 16 we are presented with another order of work which this well-tried servant learns and records. The trials of the people become a school to him for learning and

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attaining that service which was to meet their need, and while so doing his own soul was necessarily enlarged in the grace of which he was the minister. It is interesting and important for us to see that for each need and trial Moses is taught a distinct and suited lesson, so that his soul is growing in God while his service is affording the needed relief to the people.

In this chapter they felt the dearth of the wilderness so intensely (and this we must bear in mind was on the second month after leaving Egypt) that they murmured against Moses and against Aaron and said, "Would to God that we had died in the land of Egypt, where we did eat bread to the full". Moses was the one who under God had led them into these circumstances; and must he not have felt how critical the position? Yes, truly: for human help, there was none. But so much the more must his soul have depended upon God, who thus exercised him in order to cast him on Himself. Again the Lord communicates to him instruction suited for the occasion. "Behold, I will rain down bread from heaven for you", etc. This is the revelation to Moses. But the way in which he evangelises it (if I may so say) is also recorded, and worthy of notice in connection with our subject, as shewing the nearness to God and consequent searching and humbling of heart which revelations of God's mercy effect. He desires the people to "come near" before the Lord who had heard their murmurings. He had known in himself the effect of "coming near"; and as a wise leader he would conduct his brethren into the same, though it be by a different path. The glory of the Lord and the resources of the Lord had already instructed him; and now he seeks that the people may receive the same blessed instruction, though it be drawn forth by their discontent and murmurings. "And they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud", etc. And then they hear His gracious provision for their need.

Let us note that a servant's discipline must always be in advance of the service required of him. He cannot

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lead beyond the point to which he himself has been led. But when the depth and reality of the truth has been established in his own soul he is made the channel of it.

At Rephidim (chapter 17) he again suffers from the congregation, who are ready to stone him; but the Lord, ever a very present help to him in time of trouble, invests him with peculiar power to effect relief for the rebellious people. Since he has been personally assailed he must be personally honoured -- and by those, too, who had reproached and threatened him. The elders of Israel are called to see the water gush forth from the rock as Moses strikes it. Thus the Lord approves His servant before the heads of the people: and the servant's own soul is confirmed and enlarged in apprehension and appreciation of the power which God had given him for service. At Rephidim, too, was it that the children of Israel first encountered mortal strife with any of the human family. Amalek comes against them. Moses is now placed in new and untried difficulties, and he determines that Joshua must encounter man, but he, in spirit, must be engaged with God. He will betake himself to the top of the hill with the rod of God in his hand.

What a season of blessing to him, thus separated unto God -- storing his heart and filling his soul with the assurances and evidences of God's might and mercy for His people. But at this very moment the sense of his own feebleness is made more convincing than ever. If he held up his hand (an expression of dependence on God) victory was secured to Israel; but if he let it fall Amalek prevailed. A place of eminent service this without doubt. But how humbling to Moses to know and to feel that he was too weak in nature to accomplish what the spirit of his mind so desired! His hands were heavy and would have dropped but for the help and intervention of others. In the primary sense, we learn by this, as has been often before remarked, that the priesthood is necessary to sustain any service, however devoted; but in a secondary sense, and regarding the scene in its individual relation to Moses, we are taught

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that when contending with man, the greater the eminence of the place, assigned us by God, the more must our own insufficiency in nature be made apparent. No wonder Moses should have built an altar there, and called it "Jehovah-nissi". The conflict was with man -- an unnatural contest. "Woe unto the world because of offences! and woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh!" But when it does come, there is no banner to shield against it but Jehovah. And at that stage of the soul's experience Jehovah-nissi is its altar, or in other words, the character of its worship.

The next incident recorded in Moses' history (chapter 18) brings him before us in a lower point of view. He is influenced and in a measure perverted by man. He had reached great eminence in service; he had just erected an altar in record of what God had been to him in his conflict with hostile man: but now he has to encounter the voice of nature in the well intentioned but pernicious advice of his father-in-law, and yielding to it he morally sinks. In converse with Jethro, he seems to forget the lesson just taught him by the conflict with Amalek, and surrenders the service to which he was called, or part of it, without any counsel or even sanction from God. The assistance which he sought here from the heads of the people was of a very different order to that which he rightly accepted from Aaron or Hur in the conflict with Amalek. The latter was a help to himself personally, whereas the former was a transference of the duties imposed by the Lord on himself to others. Jethro had heard of all that the Lord had done for Moses and for Israel, and he comes to re-engage Moses with his wife and children, whom it appears he had sent back. Jethro, I think, here morally represents the association amongst men which a servant of God may be enticed into by relationship; and which, while owning in common with him the work of the Lord, assumes an undue importance, for it was an assumption for an uncircumcised Gentile to arrogate to himself leadership of the people of God by inducing Moses and Aaron and the elders of Israel to

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join in fellowship with him. When the soul gets into a clouded position before God it is comparatively easy to divert it from its responsibilities on the plea of inability. Moses here is induced to consider himself unequal to what God did not consider him unequal for. And though. the arrangement is permitted, it must have been with loss to him. He is now at the mount of God, experiencing the fulfilment of God's promises to him at the burning bush, after having traversed a strange and wondrous path. But even here, at the very end of it, after all the Lord's dealings and communications to him, he appears before us as susceptible of the influence of nature even as other men -- proving how little in any position is man to be accounted of.

Now, however, at the mount of God, Moses is to enter on a new office, and fulfil a different mission (chapter 19). Up to this he had been a deliverer and a ruler; now he is to be a lawgiver and a prophet -- one who, as revealing the mind of God to the people, is thus, in a sense, a mediator between God and them. Moses, as a highly favoured servant, must be instructed in this blessed line. God had met His people in their need, and delivered them, but as yet, like many a delivered one, they do not apprehend the nature of God. The pressure of impending ruin had been removed, but they have yet to learn God, and how utterly ruined they are in His sight; and Moses, instructed of God, is now to instruct them in this.

He is, therefore, called up into the mount, and brought into a nearness to the Lord, and receives a revelation of Him, different from what he had previously received in the burning bush. There it was all grace, though "holy ground" the aspect of the Lord was one of grace and compassion; here, it is God's terrible majesty, the claim of a holy God on man, and the greatness of His distance from man. Both these lessons were necessary for Moses in order to fit him for the place assigned him, towards the people of God; and it is always the manner of God's discipline to make His servants practically pass through, and learn in a fuller, and more vivid way, that particular line of truth of

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which He designs them to be the channel. Stephen saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, before he made his announcement that heaven was open, and that he saw the Son of man standing at the right hand of God; that is, he saw a greater and fuller truth than he communicated; but the greater only qualified him the more for communicating the lesser, which last was the suited measure for his audience. So Moses, now in the mount, divinely instructed in the nature and mind of God, is thus qualified for revealing Him to the people. He sees Him in His righteousness making a demand on man on earth, and still in the flesh.

Having pronounced the law, and in type and figure sprinkled the blood of purgation, he is called (Exodus 24) to receive not only the law, engraven on stones, but also a much fuller revelation of God's interest for His people; the provision of grace based on the Lord's foreknowledge of their inability to keep the law, In these interesting scenes, it is not the subject of them which must engage us here, but the blessed way in which Moses is prepared and qualified for the fulfilment of the task entrusted to him. He is called up into the mount, on which the glory of God rested. Six days the cloud covered the mount, and on the seventh day God called to Moses out of the midst of that glory, which was, like a devouring fire in the eyes of the children of Israel: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights. A fit preparation, truly, for one who is to be commissioned to set forth on earth a pattern of the things which he saw. Thoroughly detached from earth, and enwrapped in the cloud which surrounded the glory of God, his soul was impressed with the wondrous subject and detail of His commission. Then it was that the Lord said unto him, "Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them, according to all that I shew thee". Thus we have an insight into God's manner of educating His servant for His own purposes; and let us here especially note two things: first, that Moses is near God while learning the truth, and knows in himself the effect of being

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near Him: and, secondly, he learns the truth consciously from God; he is not only near Him while learning it, but he knows that he has learnt it from Himself.

But before Moses has entered on this new mission, the people of Israel have fallen into idolatry and made a calf, and he is summoned from his exalted position in the mount to witness the departure of the people from the covenant just made; and here he gives expression to sentiments which testify to us how deeply he had learnt to care for the glory of God. In this point of view (Exodus 32:11 - 13) it is an utterance hardly equalled in the whole of scripture; but the previous forty days and forty nights enabled him thus to appreciate it, and every step he takes in this trying moment declares how fully he had entered into the mind of God. He breaks the tables of the covenant, for they had already been broken on man's side, and this is no time to publish them. Then he took the idol which they had made and burnt it with fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it on the water, and made the people drink of it. Their sin must not only be put away, but they must taste in themselves the reality of it. Then he insists on separation from evil, and requires every one who is on the Lord's side to slay the recreants. In a day of universal failure, the witnesses of repentance and returning allegiance cannot too strongly enunciate their severance from their former associations, annihilating every trace of them, even unto death, and Moses, the well-prepared servant, leads the way in this.

Thus having, so to speak, prepared them for God, as repentant and separate, he returns to God to intercede for them. The Lord refuses to go up with them, and desires them to strip themselves of their ornaments, that He may know what to do with them, (chapter 33). In this moment of great suspense, while the people are waiting under the hand of God, Moses, instructed in the holiness of the mind of God, knows what to do with the people, and how to restore relations. He pitches the tabernacle afar off from the guilty camp, in order that every one who, humbled under

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a sense of sin, desired the Lord might seek Him there, apart from the defilement. This act met the mind of the Lord and restored His presence to Israel; the cloudy pillar descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord speaks to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend; and not only promises that His presence shall go with him, but also accedes to his request that He will resume His place in the midst of Israel. How blessedly Moses is enlarged in the mind of God! Difficulties the most serious are only unfolding to him the more the resources of God; but he only reaches these resources by first responding to the holiness of God. At this juncture he learns both God and man; the latter as unreliable and failing in every circumstance, and the Lord as the resource of his heart and his portion for ever. And hence, when God had acceded to all his desires, he breaks forth in the earnest entreaty, "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory". "I have seen enough of humanity to recoil from it. I have seen enough of the blessed God to desire to see Him in His fulness". This desire was answered (chapter 34); but still more fully and distinctly was it realised (Luke 9:30, 31) when, on the Mount of Transfiguration, he, with Elijah, talked with the Lord of His decease which He was to accomplish for, and on account of, this very stiff-necked Israel, as well as all the redeemed.

We have now followed Moses in his ascent to the highest point which was ever accorded to man. To the Apostle Paul, a man in Christ, greater, fuller and more peculiar glories were revealed, but "there arose not a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face". Paul (though unconscious of being in the body) must needs have a thorn in the flesh, lest he should be puffed up. We need not, therefore, be surprised to find Moses ere long demonstrating that he is not able, by reason of his infirmity, to maintain the great position assigned him.

He who had seen so much of God's power forgets and ignores it when pressed by the evil and unbelief of the people (Numbers 11) and exclaims, "I am not able to bear all

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this people alone, because it is too heavy for me". Man cannot sustain the high position God calls him to without notices now and then of his own weakness. If we have not the sentence of death in ourselves, we shall trust in ourselves. Had Moses who had been in the glory known this, he would not have looked to himself, either in strength or in weakness, but to "God who raiseth the dead". He is now humbled before the seventy elders of Israel, before whom he had previously been exalted. The spirit which was upon him is upon them. We have seen that at the suggestion of his father-in-law he had before allowed this leaven to enter, in a milder form, but now, as is ever the case when yielded to, it has worked to a fuller development. This is a time of humbling for Moses, but no less interesting to us than the time of his exaltation, as illustrating the nature of the divine school in which he is. His submission and acknowledgment of the hand of the Lord is very instructive, and his interest in the work is not abated by being in a measure supplanted. He rebukes Joshua for envying for his sake. But though the Lord had thus dealt with the unbelief of His servant, He will not allow man to undervalue or slight him; chapter 12. The cause of reproach appeared just, for he had married an Ethiopian woman, and it appears that Aaron and Miriam were encouraged by the late humbling which Moses had undergone; but the Lord in a most signal and terrific manner avenges him, and makes him the intercessor for their guilt. The Lord may rebuke Himself, but man must not; and the way in which Moses bore these taunts evinces how deeply taught he was in God's interest for himself, and also how humbled in spirit. We have seen his righteous anger burst forth when the glory of God was at stake; but when personally assailed he is silent.

Another instance of this we find in the case of Korah; Numbers 16. Instead of vindicating himself and his office, Moses refers the decision to the Lord, who pronounces on it, by terrible judgment on the offenders; and then, instructed in the mind of God he knows what will stay the

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plague among the people; and he makes use of the priesthood here, as before in the case of the golden calf, and the unbelief of Kadesh-barnea, when he himself had mediated on their behalf before God.

We now come (chapter 20) to the last scene which we shall notice in the history of Moses, and that is, his forfeiture of his right to enter Canaan, because he failed to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of the people. This occurred in the thirty-ninth year of their wanderings, just as he was about to see the happy termination of all his labours, and the fulfilment of God's promises. He seems to have failed in those very points in which he has appeared most eminent. He speaks "unadvisedly with his lips", and fails to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of the people (that Lord whose glory was so dear to his heart), and thus disqualifies himself from planting the people in the land of their inheritance, when on its very borders. When the congregation murmured for water, God tells him, "Take the rod, and gather the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, and it shall give forth his water". But instead of this, Moses, carried away by his irritation, first upbraids the people, and says, "Must WE fetch you water out of this rock?" and then lifts up his hand and smites the rock twice. The Lord was now acting through the priesthood in grace towards the people. The rock was not to be smitten again. Moses is not at this moment in fellowship with the mind and ways of the Lord -- he has failed in his mission and he must forfeit his leadership. Such is the manner of God's discipline! No amount of faithful service will mitigate or divert the penalty of assumption in that service. Paul, contrary to the warning of the Spirit, would go to Jerusalem, and a prison was his penalty for many a day afterwards.

God may, and will no doubt, use His servants in the place which their own failure has entailed on them (Paul was thus used in prison, in a new and special service): as his epistles were to him, Deuteronomy was to Moses: but He must subdue the nature which had led them to act

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independently of Him. Moses began his course by attempting a right work in his own strength, and endured many a day of exile on account of it, and now he lays himself down on Pisgah (Deuteronomy 34), after beholding the glorious land, from which he is excluded, because in acting for the Lord's people, he acted independently of the Lord, whose servant he was.

His first failure bears a close analogy to his last. But though thus chastened as to his service and mission, he loses nothing of his personal nearness to the Lord, and indeed gains in this way, for the Lord Himself shews him the land. So was it with Paul. While suffering the penalty of his failure in prison, he found more than ever that Christ was everything to him, and more than service; and no doubt Moses on Pisgah must have felt that God was greater to him than even the promised land, or than leadership thereto. At any rate, his submission to the Lord's will is very beautiful (Numbers 27:12 - 23), and his ungrudging transference of his own dignity and office to Joshua bespeaks how truly self-crucified he is. While his eye feeds on the inheritance, he is suffering crucifixion in the flesh. He lays himself down in death, but the Lord takes care of his body; Satan contends for it in vain; Jude 9. Soon it will be raised a glorious body like His own glorious body, according to the power which He has to subdue all things to Himself.

To recapitulate, I would call attention to the four great periods of discipline in Moses' history. The first: forty years' exile in the desert of Midian, because he had attempted to carry out in his own strength and in his own way the purpose of grace in his soul. Surely there is no more constant failure in many a young and earnest servant of Christ; he is manifestly so unsuccessful and disheartened that he is driven into seclusion and solitude with God and with his own heart, until he has learned not to trust in himself, and this period ends when. his soul is assured by signs and revelations of the power of God.

The second is a still darker and more terrible moment,

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when the Lord met him and sought to kill him because he had not circumcised his son. Here it is not that he is a wanderer in the desert learning how powerless he is as a man, and learning that all power is in God, but the Lord is against him, because of his thoughtlessness in connecting as the Lord's servant what is uncircumcised with the Lord; and here the Lord seeks to kill him -- to take away the life which Moses had not condemned in his son by circumcision. The old man must be crucified, and hence we are circumcised, in putting off the body of sin, by the circumcision of Christ.

The third time of discipline is when he is introduced into the glory of God for forty days and forty nights. It is not now God seeking to kill him, as a man on earth; but in the glory, placing him above and outside of everything human, and hence so instructing him in all His ways and desires that he can construct a likeness on earth to the true thing -- heaven itself. (Exodus 25; Hebrews 8:5.)

The fourth period is when on Mount Pisgah he must really; enter into death, because of the unadvised expression of his lips in the most sacred service for God. Death there must be; but at the same time his eye fully and distinctly surveys the inheritance which God has secured for His people. Amen.


The first notice which we get of Joshua is in Exodus 17:9, where he is introduced to us as appointed by Moses to lead the choice men of Israel against Amalek. From this appointment we conclude that he was the one best qualified for the post; but what is especially interesting for us to note in studying the history of any of God's servants is the peculiar aspect or condition in which they are first presented to us, for herein lies the grand characteristics which distinguish their course.

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So it is with Joshua. Type, as well as servant, of Christ, he is presented to us at the outset as a warrior chief, prepared to encounter the adversaries of Israel, and is thus typical of the Captain of our salvation; Hebrews 2:10. Joshua's first recorded engagement is with Amalek, who represents to us the flesh, or the natural man, in active opposition to the progress of the people of God. Egypt is more properly the world; Amalek, the flesh personated; Assyria, nature in its attractions and influences. The conflict with Amalek was the beginning of warfare to Israel, and Joshua for the first time characteristically appears on the scene as leader. He discomfits the enemy by the edge of the sword; but, while thus victorious, he is made to know on what his success depends. He learns to lead the people to victory by being himself subject to the vicissitudes of conflict while depending on an unseen agency for success. Moses stands on the top of the hill with the rod of God in his hand. Success wanes whenever his hands droop, and in the very alternations of the conflict Joshua learns to depend on God, and succeeds because he depends. This illustrates to us in a very striking way the true manner of conflict. It exemplifies practically that word, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure", Philippians 2:12.

The conflict is a real one, literally a hand-to-hand engagement, and success oscillates alternately in favour of each of the combatants. God is the energiser in us both to will and to do. Faith sustains Joshua. He knows that Moses is on the hill with the rod of God in his hand, and thus is he taught at the outset of his history to endure the vicissitudes of actual warfare in dependence, and as dependent to be wondrously victorious. It gives great vigour to the soul to have grappled with the actual difficulties of our onward march, and in the strength of the Lord to have conquered, to be able to say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me". This Joshua learns and expresses, in his first essay as captain-general

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of Israel; and as it was his first achievement, and, like David's victory over Goliath, indicative of all which should follow, the Lord directs that it should not only be written in a book, but rehearsed in the ears of Joshua, "For the Lord will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven". What an encouragement such a memorial must have been to him in his many subsequent engagements! Well might he fall back upon it, if tempted to be discouraged. If the Lord had sworn to annihilate this his first enemy, would He not be equally faithful as to the rest?

We next hear of Joshua in Exodus 34, and he there appears before us as minister to Moses, when the latter is called to the mount to receive the tables of testimony. This notice, though scanty, is very important, for it shews us that the man of action down here was no stranger to the solemn and wondrous manifestations of the invisible God. He not only learned how to war against the enemies of .God s people, but he learned also the realities of God's glory, by which he was formed for service down here. Inwardly he was (even as was the Lord Jesus perfectly) in communion with God's glory; outwardly, a warrior from his youth; and by both God was forming him for subsequent service. Communion in glory on the mount was as necessary as the alternations of conflict on the battle-field. There are what we may call circles, or distinct forms, in the school of God. In the warfare with Amalek, Joshua is in one circle, or one class of service; and in the mount he is in another, even that of communion with God, and an enlarging of his acquaintance with the mind of God -- a most blessed season of instruction. But even in this high association, Joshua retains his calling. When Moses turned and went down from the mount, and the sound of Israel's apostasy reached their ears, Joshua's comment on it is, "There is a noise of war in the camp", Exodus 32:17.

His mind interprets the shoutings of idolatry according to its leading impression. But when the idolatrous scene is unfolded before him, and Moses pitches the tabernacle

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outside the camp, Joshua evinces the value which the blessed season of instruction in the mount had been to him, by taking the place of separation, and refusing to mix himself with the defiled camp. We read, "Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle", Exodus 33:11. He had learned what it was to abide in the secret of the Almighty, and though the service of Moses might call him to go to and fro, this young man, whom God was instructing, knew it was better for him to remain with God in the separated tabernacle. Service did not call him to the camp, and therefore he remained entirely apart from it with God. Moses has a service to render, and he enters the camp. But if there is no room in it for service, let us be as separate as possible from it, for the separation will prepare us for the most effectual service when we are called to it.

Mere knowledge of God's will and counsel is not the full effect of nearness to Him, but the sense of what suits Him, and meets His mind: in fact, holiness, and this is the great end of the Father's discipline.

But Joshua is still a learner. The next notice that we get of him is in Numbers 11, where he misapprehends the mind of God. That very truth which had before saved him from defiling association, and preserved him in unison with God's mind, he would now make use of to circumscribe God. It is very important to remember that it is God Himself who is to counsel me, and determine my judgment, and not any single line of His truth. To remain in the separated tabernacle was plainly the way of truth and blessing, when Israel was in apostasy; but when Eldad and Medad prophesy in the camp, God's Spirit must be acknowledged, though they do not come to the tabernacle. So Moses rebukes Joshua as savouring of the things of men, and not of the things of God. The heart is right, but it has taken counsel from the flesh, and must be rebuked. This is necessary and bitter discipline, but effectual in preparing one for the entirely new and divine way in which God leads His people.

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Joshua has now been taught not to trust in himself, and he is appointed to go and search the land. Moses distinguishes him by the name of Jehoshua, instead of Oshea (Numbers 13:16), and thus intimates to us that he was now, according to his new name, entering on a new line of service. He had hitherto been only Moses' minister or servant, to carry out his instructions. Now he, with eleven other heads of the people, is sent on a special mission to search the land. Caleb and Joshua alone report favourably, and bear witness to God, and to the goodness of that which He had sworn to give them, in the midst of the unbelief of their associates. The trial they had to pass through, and how deeply they felt the sin of the people, is evinced by their action. They rend their clothes, and, while boldly bearing witness to the goodness of the land, they declare that, their entrance therein depends not on their own strength, but on the Lord's delight in His people. But all the congregation bade stone them with stones, when the glory of the Lord, bursting on the tabernacle, "in sight of all Israel", arrests their evil intention.

Let us note here the distinctness of the education to which Joshua is subjected. He had already been associated with God as the deliverer, but this is his first acquaintance with the place which God had promised His people, and to which he himself was eventually to lead them.

Moses and Joshua, as servants, had different missions. Moses' was to lead the people out of Egypt; Joshua's, to lead them into Canaan. Moses typifies the Lord combating the devil down here; Joshua, as leading us into all the blessed results of life and rest; and to fit him for this high mission Joshua must be disciplined. He must not only see the land, but he must see and feel the nature of the people he has to lead thither. And not only so, but having seen the land -- having proved in his soul, and confessed with his mouth, his faith in God's purpose and power to bring them in, and endured the opposition and persecution of this very people on account of it -- he must

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wait the lapse of forty years before he can behold and realise the portion which his faith had reckoned on.

What a trial of faith! What a prolonged education! A break seems now to occur in the narrative of his history, but surely not in the moral of it. Failing to animate the people to a sense of their calling he retires, as it were, from public life, but only to resume his place the moment he is called on.

The forty years in the wilderness must have been a time of great deepening to his faith. As he saw the unbelievers one after another die off, until he and Caleb were alone left of the former generation, each death must have confirmed to him how blessed is faith and how fatal to all blessing and service is unbelief. Like Moses in Midian, he had to lie by for forty years waiting on the Lord and learning patience, which is the first great quality of a servant of God.

There never was faith without corresponding work sooner or later. Thus James says, "The scripture was justified when it said, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness". The faith must be held fast until the work declares it, and it sustains the soul because it is dependence on God.

The thread of Joshua's history is resumed where it broke off. He had assured Israel that they were well able to go up and possess the land, and at the end of the wilderness journey, when Moses is disqualified for leading them into it, Joshua appears on the scene again. The time is come, he is ordained for this special service; Numbers 27:18 - 22. He might often have wondered to what end was the faith which forty years before had lighted up his soul and enabled him to proclaim the glories of the inheritance, but faith will always justify God. The less appearance there is of proof, the more is the soul thrown back on God, and this necessarily increases faith, because He confirms its reality unsupported by anything outward.

Very fully was Joshua's faith realised, and now, "full of the spirit of wisdom", and prepared by all these years

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of discipline, he is not only ordained by Moses, who laid hands on him, but personally commissioned and encouraged by the Lord for this high mission. "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread on, that have I given you" was now the Lord's word to Joshua. Traverse any of the endless domains of glory and that will be yours for ever; and not only so, but the reality and value of it will be declared in testimony down here, even as it was with Stephen when he saw Jesus and the glory.

We must remember that Joshua, properly speaking, is the continuation of Moses, and that both of them typify the Lord Jesus in different aspects. Moses conducts me unto the death of Christ; Joshua conducts me victoriously out of it, carrying his spoils with him; and therefore when the Lord commissions Joshua, the son of Nun, "Moses' minister", He says, "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them.... Be strong, and of good courage; for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land which I sware unto their fathers to give them". According to the terms of this commission he was not only to lead them into possession, but by dividing the inheritance he was to give them assured occupation, and this typified that finish of our Lord's work which He announced on earth when He said, "I go to prepare a place for you". Joshua's service is not consummated until this be accomplished and therefore we find in the second part of his history the trials and difficulties which he has to encounter in fulfilling his commission -- a page of deep instruction for ourselves.

Years before Joshua had believed that God could and would bring them into the land. This was his foundation, for "without faith it is impossible to please God". But now he realises that which by faith he had so long enjoyed and he is not indolent therein. He announces to the officers, "Within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in and possess the land". "Prepare you victuals", he says. The onward path was to be entered on heartily

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but with holy calmness. "Sanctify yourselves", says Joshua, "for to-morrow the Lord will do wonders for you". I pass over the wondrous scene of the passage of Jordan as to its import, which has been fully dwelt on elsewhere; the relation which it bears to Joshua is what we have to do with here. The Lord's object in it with regard to him may be seen in chapter 3: 7; chapter 4: 14: "This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel", etc. Almost singly had he forty years before stood firm for God's purpose and power amid the opposition and unbelief of the people. Now he was to be magnified before all Israel, and the Lord's presence with him proved to be as great a reality as it was with Moses. It was a glorious period in his history and corresponding to the character of his faith. Joshua, while typifying the Lord Jesus in his success, is, on the other hand, a sample for us in the struggles and conflicts which he passes through ere he arrives at success.

I do not undertake to write the life of Joshua, and must therefore confine myself (after merely enumerating his great achievements) to the exercises which his soul passes through. His first achievement in leadership is passing the Jordan; secondly, the rolling off of Egypt's reproach at Gilgal; thirdly, the fall of Jericho, or taking possession of the land; fourthly (chapter 15), dividing the inheritance. These comprise his great successes. His exercises we may consider in more detail. Foremost of these is the discomfiture at Ai; chapter 6. This was the first check in his bright career. Jordan passed -- the reproach of Egypt rolled off -- the walls of Jericho fallen to the earth through faith -- the possession of the land entered on in the most distinguished way -- what must have been his distress and disappointment when he saw Israel flee before the men of Ai! Joshua is little prepared for any reverse. Blessing and success had followed him like a swelling tide, and he is in agony. He rends his clothes and falls to the earth. He must now learn for the first time how much man may fail in scenes of the fullest, blessing. He had seen their

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failure in the wilderness, but here is failure and discomfiture in Canaan. And this causes strange and peculiar distress to his soul. How well can the heart understand the cry, "O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turneth their back before their enemies?" The greater the truth and blessing known and enjoyed the greater the dismay does discomfiture cause to the heart which is true to the glory of God.

But Joshua, like many of ourselves, had to learn an important lesson in this stage of his history. It was this -- that no amount of previous acquisition or enjoyment can secure us against defeat and overthrow, if in spirit we have connived at or become associated with principles or practices contrary to God. In ignorance of the cause he prays, mourns, and even remonstrates with the Lord. His faith wavers in the intensity of his distress. But it appears from the Lord's rebuke to him that he lacked spiritual wisdom in so doing, for such would have concluded, from a previous knowledge of God, that He would not have permitted defeat to have overtaken His people had there not been some grievous departure from Him. He ought thus to have searched for the concealed evil, instead of up-braiding the Lord. Prayer will never compensate for neglected action; it leads to action -- seeks light and strength for action, but if I use not the light I already possess, no amount of prayer will obtain more for me, for if I believe not the revelation which I have received, I am not prepared to receive more.

The Lord chides Joshua for lying before Him in ignorant, inactive mourning. He says, "Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned", etc. And He goes on to announce what must be done in order to retain His presence among them, and consequent success.

Let us note here that Israel was now entering on the inheritance, which represents to us God's kingdom and the heavenly portion of His saints. They were as one people. The sin of one affected the whole nationally.

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With us the union is spiritual, and we should be warned that if such manifest disaster was occasioned on account of the sin of one man, among those who were only united naturally and in the flesh, how much more is it so in the church, where each is, through the Holy Ghost, a member of the one body.

It was new to Joshua to hear that the secret departure from God of one man in the army could so disastrously interrupt the progress and blessing of all Israel. He is crushed by it, and almost loses hold for the moment of the faith that so characterised him. But in his deepest distress, mark what a true sense he has of God's greatness and glory! "What wilt thou do with thy great name?" is his first anxiety.

The first line of action prescribed by the Lord is inquiry. All the congregation must be presented before Him. Great scrutiny, patient and anxious investigation, is necessary. The lot is cast, but the decision is of the Lord.

Joshua after his deep exercise proves himself equal to the emergency. Having "risen up early" to discover the cause, he is prompt and decided in judging and executing judgment on the transgressor. Summary and unrelenting must it ever be! "And Joshua took Achan, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned him with fire". Not an article belonging to him escapes, and Joshua thus testifies that the nearer a man is to God, and the more he is within the circle of His greatest blessings, the more wholly and distinctly must he denounce every one and everything derogatory to His glory. The Joshua who fears not the external foe, who has seen all creation bow to his conquering tread, is the same as he who is thus faithful and effective in purging out the internal evil. The two are inseparable. Power is power, in whatever form it may be exercised. Power over the Canaanite

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-- the opponent to our realisation of our heavenly inheritance, insures power over internal evil. If Joshua had learned the one gloriously, and with a high hand, he now learns the other deeply and sorrowfully, in secret counsel with God, and no less wondrous intervention of His power. Let us remember that the greater our victories as to the inheritance, the stricter our separation from everything unsuited to the mind of God.

The sin of Achan was of no common order. It had a twofold enormity. It was a double transgression against God, and of a character fatal to the heavenly warrior. He had taken a garment accursed of God, and gold and silver which were devoted to God's treasury, thus disclosing the corruption of the heart, which, while receiving the favours of grace, has the treachery to seek its own advantages and gratification.

Joshua, having passed through this great exercise and its results, is now taught how he is to succeed against Ai. It must not be in an open and distinguished way, as at Jericho, for failure entails consequences even after the breach is healed. The conquest, however, is no less effective, and faith can discern the same amount of spiritual power, although the army is less distinguished. But Joshua has yet more to learn, and chapter 9 unfolds another order of trial, and one brought on, too, by a temporary lack of dependence on God on his part and that of the princes. The snare is not now from within, but from without. The Gibeonites "did work wilily", and Joshua is deceived, and makes peace with them, neglecting to ask counsel of the Lord. Here was the real cause of the snare proving successful, for whenever dependence on God is lost for a single moment, be it even in the very flush of victory, failure must ensue.

This was Joshua's first lesson, as we have seen, in his conflict with Amalek, and even now, after so many years of discipline and victory, it causes a check in his onward course. Achan's sin was against God, that of the Gibeonites more against Israel. The latter was man assuming

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before man to be what he is not, in order to be accepted. The sin being different, the punishment is different; the former was total and unsparing condemnation; the latter, perpetual and public infliction. The deceiving party are the most severely dealt with; they are made subservient to the interests of Israel; but the deceived, that is, Israel, also suffer, for had they followed the Lord's way and mind the subjugation would have been much more complete.

No doubt Joshua learnt much of God's mind in all these peculiar trials, and immediately after he enters on a glorious and unbroken career of victory, in which no check occurs to the remainder of his course. Highly honoured of God, foe after foe is subdued, and the Lord even stops the course of creation (the sun and the moon stand still) "at the voice of a man", chapter 10: 14. What a moment that must have been when, after treading on the neck of all their enemies, Joshua and his host smote and utterly destroyed them, from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza-Kadesh, the scene of the people's former unbelief, and of Joshua's firm and enduring faith!

The next important era in this history is the allotment of the inheritance to each tribe (chapter 13 - 19), according to the special commandment of the Lord; and this being done by Joshua, he himself is given a personal inheritance (verse 50), in which he builds a city and dwells therein.

Joshua in practical achievement presents to us four distinct blessings connected with this new and heavenly inheritance: First, the passage of Jordan; secondly, the rolling off the reproach of Egypt; thirdly, taking possession of Jericho and onward; fourthly, dividing the inheritance to each tribe and assuring each of his own.

On the other hand he had three great conflicts in connection with his leadership into Canaan.

1. He had to learn how the whole army could be enfeebled and shorn of strength by the defilement of one man.

2. How he himself could be deceived and ensnared by neglect of asking counsel of the Lord.

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3. (And this is his last.) How little he could depend on the congregation of Israel adhering to the place and path of blessing to which they had been called. This trial is presented to us (chapter 23, 24) as the closing scene of his service. He had, through God's goodness, led them to wondrous blessing. God had been faithful, but they will not be faithful or a witness to His mercy to them. What a sorrow to Joshua, after all had been accomplished according to God's promise, and his own faith fully answered, to know of a certainty that no reliance can be placed on the congregation! This conviction must have been early and deeply instilled into him from the time that he had heard the idolatrous shout issuing from the camp as he descended the holy mount with Moses; so that, as we often see, the trials of the beginning and the end of a course closely correspond to one another. How afflicting to the spirit after being used largely in making known the blessings of God, and after seeing souls in the enjoyment of them, to foresee that ere long there will be few or none to appreciate them! This trial the Apostle Paul endured when 'All they of Asia turned from him' (2 Timothy 1), and the same now awaited Joshua.

But what was his resource? He took a great stone and set it up there under an oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord, and said unto all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us, for it hath heard all the words which be spake unto us; it shall therefore be a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God". This stone typified Christ, and looking to Him as the only sure Witness, "the faithful and true", Joshua closes his course, setting forth, in this his last act, how effectual the discipline of God had been, for now his heart rests only in Him whom that stone typically foreshadowed. Hence, in the dependence of one taught of God he is earnest to maintain the truth of God, hopeless as to man, but assured and at rest because his hope is in God.

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In order to understand and appreciate Gideon's history and line of service we must survey the condition of God's people when he was called out to be a witness and a servant among them.

Israel had been under the oppressive rule of Midian for seven years. For a perfect period they were ruled over by their enemies because they had rebelled against the rule of God, and are thus taught in the land of blessing and privilege the contrast between the rule of God and that of man. We are always ruled by some one or some thing; and, if not by God, by that power which is hostile to God and His people; and to this power we are often brought into subjection in order that we may learn how much better is the sway of God than of the world under which our souls are worn out and harassed. This is a discipline to which all the people of God are liable and of which the church has had bitter experience, for instead of enjoying her privileges and blessings she has submitted to the power of the world. Harassed and disquieted, many of the true ones are searching here and there, in the dens of the mountains and the caves and strongholds, in order to enjoy a momentary respite from the grinding oppression which has been allowed because of the church's rejection of the Lordship of Christ.

The greatest servant is the greatest sufferer; he must always be equal to the state of things on which he is to act. He must have suffered with the people from the circumstances of trial; he must have known the depths of misery to which they have been reduced; he must know what he is to emerge from and reach unto or he cannot serve the people according to their need. He must have endured himself and known the sorrow of the judgment or he could not appreciate the deliverance which he is appointed to effect. Paul was the most bigoted Pharisee and of all men knew most of the evil effect of their prejudices. Hence he was able, when taught of God, most effectually and accurately

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to expose and confute them. In nature he who had gone into the depths of prejudices, in grace will leave none of them uncorrected or undisclosed, for the Lord will make His servants skilful in denouncing and repudiating the very evil their own nature has led them into. "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren".

Gideon was thus prepared, not as yet by a knowledge of his own evil nature, but by a practical identification with the circumstances in which the people of Israel were plunged on account of their failure. He suffered with them and no doubt had joined in their cry to the Lord on account of the Midianites. But before he as the deliverer is introduced on the scene the Lord answers that cry by exposing to the people (by the mouth of a prophet) how they had departed from Him; Judges 6:8 - 10. The first great dealing of the Lord with the soul is to shew it its decline and failure. The word of God pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Its great action is to reveal to the soul its condition, and in every dispensation the prophets acted on souls by the word. By them the secrets of hearts were made known and convicted. So when the Lord had disclosed to the woman of Samaria her moral condition she immediately pronounced Him a prophet.

Here, then, we find the people prepared for approaching deliverance by the conviction of their consciences; and this being done the angel of the Lord immediately opens communications with the appointed deliverer, whose fitness for the work is evidenced by the position and occupation in which he is found. "Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites". This was characteristic of the man. The iron had entered his soul, but his strength had not failed him in the day of adversity, and real strength is that which is equal to the demand for it, and the emergency tests an otherwise dormant ability. Gideon's energy was equal to the emergency; he was strengthening the things that remain that

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were ready to die, and while evincing his faithfulness in that which is least, the angel of the Lord, after silently watching him, reveals himself, and addresses him thus: "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour". A strange address apparently to a poor thresher of wheat! But the Lord estimates not as man; He knows the vessel which He can use, and what it is able to perform. As the apostle says, "He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry". He designates Gideon "a mighty man of valour", because He appreciated the efforts which Gideon used to maintain the residue of blessings, and while thus employed He calls him to enter on a higher mission and a greater service.

Gideon was evidently a man who had pondered over the ways of the Lord, for his reply is, "Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us, and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites". In this rejoinder we see that he not only knew how the Lord had dealt with Israel in time past, but also the judicial position in which they now were. He saw God alone on either side. Consequently the angel "looked upon him", or was turned towards him, and commissioned him to "go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?" The servant of God must know and believe that in God is the power which alone can set up or pull down; it is the foundation-stone in the soul for any deliverance. "Twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God".

Gideon knew this; but there is a great difference between owning all power as belonging to God, and seeing it acting on our behalf; and as the former conviction makes us feel our own powerlessness the more, it will produce despondency unless we can rest on the assurance that God will act for and through us. Gideon cannot see how the link can be established between God and man, so that man can be made the administrator of God's power and will,

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and pleads his own insignificance and insufficiency. And the Lord, in order to establish his soul, gives a promise: "Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man".

Great as was this promise, Gideon could not yet appropriate it; however wonderful and suited, he could not embrace it until he feels in his own soul the link between himself and God, and is assured of his own acceptance, and therefore he exclaims, "If now I have found grace in thy sight, shew me a sign that thou talkest with me". And then, having brought his offering, and set it forth according to the angel's directions, as we read in verses 18 - 22, the Lord accepts the offering, causes it to be consumed and disappears from Gideon's sight, thus giving him an unquestionable proof, not only of His own presence and power, but of Gideon's acceptance with Him. He had sought a sign, to enable his soul to trust in the promised succour of God in the great service appointed to him. For, as a fallen man estranged from God, he could see no ground for dependence, and the acceptance of the sign is almost too much for him. The Lord's manifestation of Himself convinces Gideon of His nearness to him, which naturally must be death to him, and of which he has the sense; so that he exclaims, "Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face". The word of the Lord now calms and settles his soul. "Peace be unto thee: thou shalt not die;" and thereon Gideon builds an altar, which denotes the relation in which he now stands with God, and which is the groundwork of his soul before he enters on his service. The altar, or access, is Jehovah-Shalom.

Thus is Gideon prepared for the work which he had been called, and it is profitable for every servant to ascertain how far he has been prepared in like manner for service. I have dealt thus minutely on the preparation, because, if I have not found an assured acceptance and rest with God, I cannot be free from my own interests to engage in the interests of the service unto which I am called.

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Many attempt to serve the Lord, hoping thereby to acquire rest and peace for their own souls. Consequently they continue the service, and value it according as it contributes the desired relief. It is true that every true soul acting for God must be established in the sense of His favours; but when this is the object, the service is diverted from its true aim, and the proper spring of it is lost. Service must be undertaken by one happy in God, and therefore happy to be a fellow-worker with Him; and it must be pursued and executed quite independently of its effects on myself, and entirely with respect to the will of God. Again, others attempt to serve, but they have no ability, and in public ministrations are invariably engaged with themselves. They either do not know where to find rest and peace, or, having found it, they do not walk in the power of it -- that power which faith confers.

Gideon having learnt to worship at Jehovah-Shalom (for the name of the altar indicates the worship), he is directed as to his line of action "the same night". Mark! blessing is never deferred when we are ready for it. Night is not the time for action, and, man might say, "Tomorrow thou shalt have it", but with God the very moment we are ready for it, that moment we receive it. As with Isaac, as soon as ever he had reached Beersheba, the true place of separation, the Lord appeared to him "that same night;" or as with Jacob, when he went on his way from Padan-Aram, "the angels of God met him". The moment we get on God's line, that moment we find ourselves in the light and strength of God. "In the same night" Gideon is directed to be a witness of the grace he had learned, and after this manner -- "Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it". His own home is the first circle in which the true servant will testify the great realities of his heart and service, and the power and distinctness with which this is done defines and prefigures his future course and ability. The Lord Jesus opened the divine record of

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His mission in "Nazareth, where he was brought up". Barnabas brought Saul from Tarsus. So here now, Gideon in a bold, determined manner is to declare to his father's house, and through it to all his city, the light which had dawned in his soul, at once demanding from him, and empowering him to bear the testimony. The false worship in his father's house he was utterly to abrogate and abolish.

Gideon obeys; but he does it by night, fearing to do it by day. Here is an inroad of nature. His faith was as yet not such as to enable him to testify openly and boldly; but what his faith did enable him to do, that he did.

Even where the word of God is received and obeyed, there is often a deficiency in the testimony. Many a true soul is not prepared to testify as openly as he might. It is better when obedience and testimony go together; but though the flesh may hinder testimony, it cannot prevent obedience, if there be faith. Paul was both a minister and a witness. It is the highest privilege for a servant, not only to obey or minister, but to be able to testify of his identity with the ministry. If flesh works -- if our own nature is allowed a voice, our testimony is compromised, we have lost our self-possession and the personal control which is necessary for a witness. But faith insists on obedience, even in secret. In our patience we must possess our souls. Practically our hearts and minds must be kept in peace, or we cannot without loss of testimony perform the very acts of faith. The emotions of the flesh are no excuse for not obeying what we have faith to do. We may, on account of them, lose the higher place of testimony, but nothing must hinder obedience to God's word. Moreover, if we are faithful, our acts will declare themselves, and thus testimony will follow, though it may not accompany them. Thus was it with Gideon. And on the outset he learns the hostility of his own people to faithfulness for the truth. But how little the world knows that its evil opposition always evokes from God's witness an amount of power more than sufficient to suppress it! The cry of the populace for the execution of Gideon is met by the challenge of

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Joash to let Baal plead for himself, if he be a god, and Gideon is surnamed Jerubbaal in consequence of this challenge.

How graciously and wisely the Lord was preparing His servant for the work in His counsel assigned to him! And how similar are His dealings with ourselves! His purpose is to assure the soul that as surely as Christ has triumphed over every power of evil, so surely may we conclude that every expression or manifestation of evil is properly only a guarantee to us that there is a power at hand for us more than superior to it. And, furthermore, the greater the amount of evil opposition the more marked and manifest will be the power which will overcome and silence it. We should comfort ourselves in every circumstance of life, that, "When the enemy cometh in like a flood; the Spirit of the Lord raiseth up a standard against him" -- a truth most important to the faithful servant in times of difficulty, and therefore implanted by divine power in the soul of Gideon, and now to be declared when all the Midianites and the children of the east were gathered together, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. "Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him". He had already passed through the two great experiences of soul which qualified and prepared him for his work; the first being that of his own relation to God, was established at the altar -- Jehovah-Shalom, and the other -- his faithfulness to the truth of God, in the utter abolition of all false worship. Thus qualified, he enters his public service. But here, again, although he has gathered by divine energy the men of Abiezer, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali around him, and prepares for acting in the sight of the foe, he has to learn that unless he be assured of God's support he cannot proceed.

How vacillating and humbling is the secret history of the soul, so graciously detailed for us with reference to this faithful servant, though outwardly nought can be discerned but boldness and energy! And well it is for us that

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we have to do with a God as gracious and considerate of our weakness as. He was with Gideon. By peculiar signs and intimations the gracious Lord confirms His servant's mind in the verity of those promises which he ought to have rested in at once, in mercy giving and repeating every proof or evidence required. It is a very different thing to seek for a sign to establish belief in God, and to seek for one to confirm us in the rightness of the path on which we have entered, and of God's support in it. The former the Lord will not grant or allow. "There shall no sign be given you", He says to the Jews, when they asked for a sign as a ground of belief. The divine path must be begun and entered on in faith, and without signs; but the Lord continually vouchsafes evidences to confirm the soul already in the right path, with the assurance that it will succeed therein. The soul, when really depending on God, and entering on any signal work, seeks not to be conscious of its own ability, but of God's; God's, if I may so say, in the abstract, that is, that it has to do with One whose power, and ability to apply that power, is equal to any demand. This is the discipline which establishes the soul and fully places it in the line appointed. In different ways it is granted to every servant; but the sense communicated to the soul is this -- that God's power is made known according to the requirements for it. Flaws in our faith become more apparent as the strain on us is greater. And many break down in their course, because they have not learned the universality and readiness of God's power.

Gideon finds what we shall all find -- that God is gracious enough to instruct him in this point, in any way that he may suggest, or which will establish it most clearly to his own satisfaction. Whether it be dew on the fleece only, and dry on all the earth beside, or dry on the fleece only, and dew on all the earth, God vouchsafes it, and Gideon is confirmed; the discipline is the exercise.

Thus ready, "he rose up early, and all the people that were with him, and pitched beside the well of Harod". Here the Lord interposes, in order to declare the work as

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His own. Israel must have no room to vaunt against God, and say, "Mine own hand hath saved me". Consequently Gideon must proclaim in the ears of the people, "Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from Mount Gilead". It must have been a trial to Gideon's faith to see twenty-two thousand of the people retire from his standard; but this is a trial which ever accompanies faith. If he has believed, he must not be confounded because he sees the means, which he had expected to secure the desired end, almost entirely melt away. But Gideon is now strong in God, and through God's gracious dealing and education he is not discouraged; nor need he be, for it is better for a man of faith to be in company with a few faithful than with many who are weak and wavering. But though less than a third of the original number remained even that number the Lord pronounces "too many;" and He orders that the whole remaining company be put to the test in order to prove who was really fit for war and testimony. This test is a simple and unimportant one to man's eye but searching in its spiritual application. It proved whether they were wholly set on the one object -- the one mission, or whether they could be distracted from it for a moment in order to indulge in natural refreshment.

This was the meaning of the test of the water. And what a result! Nine thousand seven hundred were found not whole-hearted, they went on their knees to drink. Though doubtless quite ready for war that purpose did not wholly overrule the desire for personal gratification. And three hundred only are found so single-hearted that they will but taste and hurry on. Alas I if such a test were put to us how few of us would be numbered in Gideon's band! Many of us might rank with the thirty-two thousand who set out with him, or even the ten thousand who had stood the first sifting, but how few know that abnegation of nature which would enable them regardless of personal enjoyment to hurry on and fight the good fight of faith! There was but a little difference between those who

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lapped and those who went on their knees to drink. And surely water was a necessary refreshment for thirsty warriors. But the manner of taking it laid bare the condition of the heart, and it teaches us this great lesson -- that unless we make the Lord and the Lord's glory our sole object and aim He cannot use us as deliverers, though He may graciously allow us to share in the deliverance which He has wrought by more faithful ones.

To Gideon also, as well as to his followers, must this sifting have been a trial of faith, for the decrease of numbers must have cast him still more in dependence on God, and many would be confounded by such a searching process; but the untaught one is never equal to the trials of warfare. "The same night" (for now that the company is prepared there must be no delay) the Lord tells him, "Get thee down into the host", etc., but with peculiar graciousness and willingness to meet any wavering in Gideon's faith and invigorate him He adds, "If thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant, and thou shalt hear what they say", etc. How manifold are the ways of the Lord on behalf of His servants! In the enemy's camp the interpretation of a dream announces Gideon's success and he hears how they already reckon on their own overthrow. Gideon was greatly encouraged by this; he worshipped, and returned in full assurance of victory ere the conflict had begun. The details of that conflict (or rather conquest, for it was a pursuit rather than a fight) I need not dwell on, except to say that it was truly strength made perfect in weakness. Lamps within the pitchers -- treasures in earthen vessels and trumpets to announce that their cause was the Lord's -- were the only weapons of the little band until the enemy's swords were all turned against themselves.

Gideon's success was complete, and he was proved an instrument in God's hand to effect deliverance for His people. But what varied discipline he required before he was so! How little does one know of the antagonism of our nature to the will of God, who thinks that service can

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be undertaken without that self-renunciation which can only be learned by experimental knowledge of the superiority of God's ways and counsels! We never surrender what we value until we find a better, and man is so full of himself and his own will that until he find out the superiority of God's will he can be neither an obedient nor a suitable servant, that is, one who carries out the mind and intentions of his Master. And this is often learnt through varied and painful processes. Jonah was taught obedience in the whale's belly, because he learnt there to be reliant on God solely, but loss of the gourd taught him the mind and nature of God. The disciplined servant always finds a way to do his work however difficult it may appear. The greater the difficulties the greater must be the evidence that our resources are of a different order and character from those arrayed against us, and this will be found true in very small matters as well as in great ones.

The Midianites being overcome, Gideon has to meet with another difficulty and one of a different order, that is, to encounter the opposition of those who rank as his friends -- an order of opposition which it requires more wisdom to surmount than even that of acknowledged foes. The manner in which he deals with the two classes of his contending brethren is instructive to us to notice. With the men of Ephraim (chapter 8), who chide him for not calling them to the battle, he takes the lower place -- that of grace, the true, wise and godly position to hold toward those who seek to be conspicuous. Gideon might have replied that himself and the three hundred were specially called and chosen of God; but he does not, and leaves the Ephraimites to the satisfaction of that measure of honour which God had put upon them. But towards the men of Succoth and Penuel, who refused to supply bread to the "faint, yet pursuing", he acts very differently. They must receive no quarter. Their conduct in refusing sustenance to the three hundred when contending with the enemy was opposition to the cause of God and the part of traitors to His name and glory. The principle is the same in both

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dispensations. There are cases which we must meet and deal with in grace, but we are on the other hand earnestly to contend for the faith. "I would", says the apostle, "they were even cut off who trouble you". "If any man bring not this doctrine [that is, of Christ], receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed"

In chapter 8: 22 once more, and for the last time, Gideon is presented to us in a new and peculiar line of discipline. Great services often engender self-satisfaction and desire for an exaltation which the unspiritual are too ready to accord to us. The multitude solicit Gideon to rule over them, but he replies, "I will not rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you". How could he take the place of that God who had so blessed and honoured him? So far he spoke in the wisdom of the Spirit, but his request for the earrings of his prey evinces a covert desire to commemorate his services though he had refused the place of power and dignity. What could such a desire produce but a snare, whether in the form of an ephod or anything else? And such it was to Gideon and to his house.

What a lesson and warning for us to see a servant, of God, after such protracted teaching for the work of God, in a moment, as it were, lose himself, and after attaining so high and distinguished a place through service, sink from man's sight behind a cloud! It teaches us that though we may refuse a public place of exaltation, still we may not be proof against the more subtle and more dangerous snare of supposing that the memorials of our service can in any way contribute to the worship of God; for this is using service as a means of self-exaltation, which thing must "become a snare to us and to our house".


Samson is the last in the history of the judges, a period during which the Lord was proving His people as to their ability to trust in Him for government, without any established order.

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They had continually failed, and in consequence had become tributaries to those whom they ought to have driven out. There is no neutral place for the people of God. They must either be above the world, testifying against it for God, or they must be servants to it. If Israel be not sustained by God above the nations, they are led away captive by the nations; they can never exist as equals; they must be either victors or slaves. Slavery was God's chastening on them for not being victors; the Lord was not with them. When they departed from the Lord they were weaker than the nations. A Christian is always weaker than the world if he be out of communion, because he has lost the source of his strength, and therefore he is easily baffled by the world, which assails him with all its varied influences.

Judges were raised up by the Lord to deliver the people from their enemies, when they felt their sin in departing from Him, according as He required them to feel it.

The people of Israel at the time of the birth of Samson had been under the hand of the Philistines for forty years, the longest term of captivity which they had endured during the time of the judges. To deliver them from this protracted bondage Samson is raised up, and because it was the last and the severest during this eventful period, we are told not only the manner of the birth of the deliverer, but the mind and expectations of his parents previous to his birth.

Samson must be a "Nazarite to God from the womb". In order to be a deliverer of the people of God from the subjugation into which they had fallen through unholy association, he must be entirely separate from all enjoyments among them. His mother is taught this, and trains him up accordingly. Our early training and the associations which surround us have a peculiar and continuous effect on us in after life. Samson was a Nazarite, but he grew up in acquaintance and intimacy with the Philistines; consequently he never seems to be aware of the great moral contrast which should exist between a Nazarite and a

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Philistine. Much of this sort of ignorance and want of perception we see among Christians in our own day. There is often an approval of individual Nazariteship, while intercourse and association with the world continues.

Thus Samson's first act recorded (Judges 14:1) is an attempt to form a union where there could be no union. His father and mother cannot understand it, and we read, "they knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines".

Mark! it was not the union that was of the Lord, but the intended antagonism to the Philistines; not the means, but the end. Union according to God there could not be. On the contrary, in any attempted union where the elements are much opposed, the differences are the more fully exposed. The means Samson proposed was no divine way; but the intention was divine, while the means were manifestly human, and consequently the marriage is interrupted, while the divine intention is fully answered. It is a great thing to start with a right intention, for if it be of God, sooner or later it must be accomplished, though necessarily at the expense of all that which self has mixed up with it.

Moses desired to deliver his people from Egypt, but when he first attempted it he trusted to resources of his own, and he failed; but eventually he succeeded gloriously through the power of God. In like manner Peter was ready to die for the Lord, which he eventually did; but how much humbling had he to pass through before he reached the realisation of his desire

The Lord teaches in such a way and after such a manner that the human element is set aside, and His own power is fully vindicated in us. This truth is beautifully exemplified in the part of Samson's history which we are about to consider. "Samson went down to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand". Here the Lord

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teaches him that it is not by an unholy alliance with the world, but by downright opposition to it, that he must overcome, and he practically reaches this in the end.

The truth which grows out of this lesson (a "riddle" to the world) breaks up the marriage, and sends Samson forth in open hostility against the Philistines. Let us consider this discipline a little more minutely. Samson, as we have seen, starts with a right intention; but, in consequence of natural association with the Philistines, from which he judicially suffered, he attempts to marry a daughter of these uncircumcised people; but just as he reaches the place where he is to consummate his plan a young lion roars against him. Now God in this way appears to teach him that God's Spirit can enable him to overcome the direct foe without any intervention, for he had "nothing in his hand", much more without any human plan of unsanctified union. Unaided, Samson confronts this terrible foe, and succeeds so completely that through God he "rent him as he would have rent a kid". What a moment that was! A moment when it is a struggle for life or death! How necessary for the heart to believe in the power of the living God in the dark valley of death -- to know His power in delivering us from the jaws of the lion! Such a moment ought to have been to Samson an earnest of the nature of his mission, as the vision on the road to Damascus was to Paul all his life long, for he was to be a minister and a witness of the things which he had seen, and of "those things in which I will appear unto thee". The character of our first acquaintance with God properly indicates the line He desires to sustain us in in our course down here.

But Samson was slow to learn; and, untaught by this marvellous instruction, he pursues his own plan, enters into a contract, and in due time returns for the purpose of ratifying it. In doing so he must repass the spot where he had known such signal deliverance, and which was to yield still further instruction for him if he would but give heed to it. Turning aside to contemplate his conquered foe, he

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finds honey in the carcase of the lion, and shares it with his parents who knew not from whence it came. This gives rise to the riddle which Samson knew, but could not apply to his own circumstances. Alas how often is this the case with us, and how much sorrow does our wilfulness entail on us, because we do not receive the word in faith, as adapted to ourselves; for it is evident that we never adopt any truth practically unless we are convinced of its suitability to our own circumstances; nor, I believe, does the Lord intend us to use it until we be thus convinced. And this explains why we are so often permitted to persist in our own plans, after we have learned truth, which, if truly received, would supersede them altogether by casting us distinctly on God. The secret of our strength with God must ever be a riddle to nature. The power made known to Samson was a perfect mystery to the Philistines.

Samson in propounding his riddle shewed the great separation and uncongeniality of mind between the Philistines and himself, and his intended wife is in the same moral distance. A union attempted under such circumstances must issue, as it does here, in the cause of the Philistines being preferred to that of her acknowledged lord. Her devotion to him gives way before the fear of her own people, who threaten her with ruin unless she betrays him. Had she but clung to him as she ought to have done in true devotion, he would inevitably have saved her from the catastrophe she dreaded; but failing to do this, she betrays the one she ought to have suffered for. A sad and true picture of Christendom, and with a voice to each of us! Samson is betrayed by the one whom he most trusted, and where naturally he least expected treachery; but the Lord turns is into blessing, and the marriage is interrupted. He must relinquish it in order to pay the penalty to which he had subjected himself by the disclosure of his secret to the Philistine. Thus the conflict with the lion in the way had at last worked out what God had purposed it should with regard to Samson, who had been so slow to learn it, when he ought to have

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done so. The riddle "out of the eater came forth meat" -- that is, the truth revealed to Samson through that conflict -- was the eventful cause of his unholy alliance being broken off, while the divine intention which he had proposed to himself by the union was ratified by the rupture of it. The Philistines now use the knowledge of God's secret which they have acquired unjustly, and this justifies him, empowered by the Spirit of the Lord, to render a righteous recompense to them. First, Samson goes down to Ashkelon, slays thirty of them, takes the spoil, and gives the promised change of garments to those who had expounded the riddle. And afterwards, in consequence of their unjust disposal of his wife, he lets loose three hundred foxes with firebrands in the midst between their tails, and burns up all the standing corn, the vineyards, and the olives. Samson's mistakes are mercifully counteracted, and true service wrought by him. The debt, which the Philistines had made him liable to by unrighteous means, is paid by retribution on themselves. So should it be now with the servant of Christ. As Christendom has unrighteously acquired the divine secret, and thereon founds its claim to be the church of God, he should avenge, in true spiritual conflict, all the false acquisitions which the world has appropriated from the word of God. This is very peculiar discipline. The servant finds himself in association with Christendom which is avowedly in possession of God's truth, which to the natural man is a riddle, and which is only used by him for carnal purposes, and to resist the claim on those who possess the reality. Now by means of this very truth, the true servant not only discharges the unjust claim, but in doing so draws the line of separation between himself and the mere professor.

The second exploit, occasioned by Samson's wife being given to his friend, excites the Philistines to greater violence, and they wreak their vengeance, not on Samson, but on the one who had betrayed him and her father's house, which they burn with fire -- the very fate which she had so feared, and the threat of which had caused her to

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act unfaithfully to Samson; this teaches us that whatever we seek to escape from, through unbelief and unrighteousness, is sure to be our eventual doom. We may escape from it for a moment, but our escape is, after all, the sure road to it. This act, however, increases Samson's right of vengeance, and we read, he "smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam".

Samson had now, after varied exercises and trying services, become such an eminent foe to the Philistines, that they muster their forces and demand his life. When the servant of God will give no quarter to the world, and they can in no wise circumvent him, then their open hostility will burst forth. The same spirit that in all its malignity cried against the Lord, "Crucify him, crucify him!" now in the Philistines seeks the life of Samson: and Judah, that tribe from which Shiloh should come, manifests towards him the same lack of godly principle which afterwards characterised them when they delivered the Lord Jesus to Pilate. "Three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? ... And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines". What a trying moment to Samson! his purposes and acts to be so little appreciated by his own people, on whose behalf he had fought. How similar (only in untold moral distance) to Him of whom it is said, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not". What peculiar sorrow must the true servant endure from those he is serving most earnestly! To be disowned and condemned as useless after having wrought the most signal service is a very bitter trial; but Samson is equal to it. And still further, in the power of God and the gentleness of His grace, he will not touch his own people, however ungracious to him, but only engages them solemnly that they will not fall upon him themselves. Notwithstanding this, they bind him and

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bring him down from the rock. And the Philistines shouted against him, and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were about his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and he took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.

Now mark! Samson had been delivered from both association with and subjection to the Philistines, and had retreated to the rock Etam in Judah as at once Israel's deliverer and the Philistines' terror; but Judah is unbelieving and delivers him over to the enemy. This leads to the manifestation of Samson's power and his right or title to judge Israel, which is noted in the last verse of this chapter. He has now reached the position which he was appointed to fill and which the Spirit was leading him through many exercises to occupy.

We must not omit to notice the conclusion of the above manifestation and victory. After he had by means of a jawbone laid heaps upon heaps, and sung in ecstasy of soul after his work, he threw away the jawbone, and then his own personal wants afflict him. "He was sore athirst". Great services for others will not supply the soul's necessities, which can only be supplied from the Lord. However brilliant our services our own souls will famish unless directly sustained by the Lord, for mere service never sustains. On the contrary, the greater the service the more shall we be conscious of our own necessity and dependence on God for personal support. The greatest service will not supply one drop of relief to the weary soul. From God alone that must come. And thus in answer to Samson's cry God relieves him, and he calls the name of the place En-hakkore, "the well of him that called". He commemorates, not his service, but his dependence on God; and now that he is proved in dependence, as well as in service, it is recorded that Samson judged Israel twenty years.

We may now pause in the narrative to review this early

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stage of Samson's history in the double light which it appears to bear. We have seen that his projected union with a Philistine was an unholy alliance, and that God had to discipline him in order to teach him its unsuitability, and we have traced the discipline. This is true regarding him as an Israelite and a Nazarite, but I think the action also bears another aspect, which appears in the words, "they knew not that it was of the Lord", that is, that it was almost a necessary consequence of the judicial position to which he was born liable, even that of subjection to and association with the uncircumcised. Though a Nazarite, he was on account of the condition of the nation exposed to this corrupt association and was responsible for it; and while, on the one hand, he is taught to deliver himself from it, on the other he is allowed to propose a union which was an admission of the liability entailed on him but which he personally had no part in creating. This union was not allowed because in itself unholy, but the proposition answers the double purpose in the instruction of God; on the one hand being an admission of the consequences of the nation's sin, and on the other an opportunity for Samson, through God's power and training, to extricate himself from it and to become the deliverer of His people. In the same sense a man is born into the world liable to the penalty of Adam's sin before he has committed any act of sin. So in Israel. So in the church. Each one is liable to all the forfeitures and penalties as well as the privileges attaching to the whole, and he cannot assume the privileges without discharging the liabilities which are the real impediments to the enjoyment of the privileges. This was Cain's mistake; in offering a meat-offering he assumed the position of a man acceptable to God before he had answered to the penalties on him because of sin. The same principle holds good in the church. We must bear its ruin as well as assume its privileges and dignities.

But the man of strength must not lie under these consequences without an effort to avenge the wrong and

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to extricate himself, his kindred, and his people. He repudiates nothing to which he is justly liable, but neither does he increase the embarrassments by contributing personally to the moral failure of his people. Consequently Samson was a Nazarite from his birth, and for that very reason was the only one suited to take the place of servant and deliverer. In a word, while personally separate, he admitted the judicial alliance between Israel and the Philistines by proposing affinity with one of their nation. Incongruous it was, but so much is first allowed in order that Samson, the man of strength, might avow Israel's humiliated position, and no more is necessary or sanctioned in the counsels of God. A righteous ground is soon found for preventing the alliance and emancipating the people from the bondage of their oppressors. By fair conflict he reaches the rock Etam, and there established as deliverer of the people he judges them twenty years.

This is the first epoch in Samson's history. The second is how he again became mixed up with the Philistines on a lower level and how he suffered for it. In the first we have seen how he sought an alliance only for an occasion, and how wondrously he was helped and raised up to be judge of the people; but now, seeking association for mere natural desire, although his strength acts when he repents, yet he never after resumes his position at Etam as judge of Israel, and this has a distinct voice to us. If we own the ruin of the church with the purpose to discharge the liabilities thereby saddled on us, we shall be helped righteously in freeing ourselves from them, but if we return, to the association in "the great house", for which we have felt responsible and for which we have answered, we are sure to be involved therein, and though afterwards we may do individual acts of valour, yet we shall never again be able to resume the position of witness for God or deliverer of His people.

Samson went down to Gaza (chapter 16), and saw there a harlot and went in unto her. Here he renews the unholy

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association and yet he is made aware of the Philistines' machinations against him and is enabled in a marvellous way to defeat them, for "he arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of the hill which is before Hebron". Surely this was a warning to Samson, though with a marked deliverance. How often does the soul recover from the first step backwards in a very remarkable manner with great evidence of strength, though it be only at midnight, that is, there may not be so much testimony as a great deliverance. Paul's going to Jerusalem is an example of such a retrograde step; and at midnight, too, escorted by Roman soldiers, he outwits and escapes his enemies. Blessed indeed when such discipline leads the soul (as it did with Paul) to avoid such association again! But Samson refuses to learn, and we next read, "He loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, and her name was Delilah". This introduces us to the most pitiable and humiliating incident in the life of any of God's servants. No amount of treachery on the part of Delilah (who is the world in type -- a combination of allurement and malice) can awaken Samson to the real character of her to whom he has allied himself. Where must have been his sensibilities when he could keep up the closest intimacy with one who sought his confidence in order to work out his ruin? At first he does not confide in her, and while he retains his reserve and keeps his divine secret he is safe, however humbling his position as a mighty man to be in the hands of a false woman. Truly, when we see how the strongest may be deceived, and so far that the most palpable proofs will not disabuse their minds of the fearful spell, we may say, "let no man glory in his strength". Great is the mercy of our God, who, even in a downward course, guards us to the furthest possible point. Samson is always victorious until he communicates the secret of his strength -- the mark of his Nazariteship and separation to God; but the moment he betrays this he has relinquished the source of

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his strength, he has lost his mark as God's servant -- one that it was not for uncircumcised ears to know of. As long as this mark remained, God succoured and honoured him. We often find that God supports His servant who retains the secret of separation, even though he may be lured by natural attractions; but when this mark is relinquished He succours no longer. There is but a small step between the allurements of the world and its deadly wrong. And so was it with Samson. Yielding first to allurement, he next surrenders the mark of separation, and is finally delivered into the hands of the Philistines and his eyes put out. What a picture of every servant of God who pursues a like course, and thus becomes a "withered branch" and a prey to the ungodly world! What bitter, painful discipline Samson must now undergo! Bound in fetters of brass, he "grinds in the prison house" -- the effect of his own self-will and surrender of his true place of separation. In the prison his hair begins to grow again; the mark of separation is renewed, but his eyes are gone! A solemn truth for us! The mark is restored and strength is active, but only in death is its power seen.

Now as practically by the death of Christ all foes of every shade have been overcome, so the death-scene alone remains as a place of testimony for a servant like Samson, who has sunk with eyes open into the unholy association which he once so much opposed and which he had renounced when restored in heart. When the hair has grown, the only spot or place of testimony for him is death -- death to himself openly and practically, and it is in it he manifests that God is with him. The restored Nazarite is one who proves his repentance by the completeness of his self-surrender, he dies: it is not "hair" that marks him, but death. Samson died with the wicked, but in the last wrench -- that terrible judgment laid on man because of sin -- Samson glorified God, for he "slew more in his death than in his life". The true epitaph this of every soul which has learned the power of Christ's death, for there the conqueror overcomes every foe, even

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him who has the power of death, to the praise and glory of God, and teaches us that as death is the only correction or cure of the lusts of the flesh, it is the servant's greatest help against the flesh, and hence we who are His are already delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, etc.

Such is the end of Samson. A man unequalled in strength, and most valiant in using it: an end, humbling indeed to the flesh, but glorifying to God as vindicating His unerring wisdom and discipline with His servants. May we all learn to walk more separate, to preserve our Nazariteship, if we would be witnesses for our Lord and preserved from the oppression of the world! And may we learn from Samson's history, on the one hand, how easily we are led to surrender it when we once fall into association with the world, and, on the other, how though our testimony may have been marred by failure, we may yet glorify God, if in the calmness and steadiness in which we carry about in our body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our body.


To trace the history by which a woman is fitted to fill a place of testimony for God on earth must be a study both interesting and important to us, and one specially needed in these days, whether it be applied to the individual or to the church.

Woman was first formed to be a "help suited to man". At the fall she seems to have forfeited this high position, and after it to be regarded in the place of subjection and inferiority rather than that of equality and help. Grace is the great manifestation of God's love, and the principle of grace is, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound". Where failure and weakness have most appeared, there the grace of God acts in restoration. But this restoration is never without a sense of the failure and weakness which it triumphs over, and our blessed Lord,

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in leading a soul into the blessings of His grace, must necessarily educate it in the righteousness of His actings, as well as in the goodness of them. It is according as we learn the Lord Jesus Christ that we in heart and conscience comprehend both, and the means and stages of this restoration detail to us the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He leads us to see, step by step, how we need His grace, and He prepares us for it by producing in us the self-renunciation which will make room for His gift. God in His discipline teaches us how the flesh hinders -- shews us what it is, and deals with it that it may be set aside.

How gracious of the Lord, then, to instruct us as He does, by presenting to us in His word examples of the principles of the discipline which fits us, according to His own purpose, for service and glory.

This is what we find in Ruth, and herein consists the interest of her history, in which we learn how God led and enabled a woman, who was a member of the most despised family, a Moabite, to fill the most honoured position in the royal tribe of Israel; nay, to concentrate in herself the blessings of Rachel and of Leah. We cannot too carefully note the manner and spirit by which this great result was attained.

Chapter 1. -- Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons had emigrated from Bethlehem-Judah into the land of Moab because of the famine in their own land. It was an evidence of decline and judicial suffering when a man of Israel had to desert his own country because it lacked those natural blessings which were granted to a Gentile country, and the necessary consequence of this is that Elimelech's two sons took them wives of the women of Moab. A son of the promised seed, by marrying a woman of Moab, raised her from her low position, though in doing so he clouded his own and compromised it by his sojourn in the land of Moab. So that Ruth was raised by her marriage from her low national position into one of the tribes of Israel, and on the death of her husband she, a widow, with only a widowed mother-in-law, must either,

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like Orpah, fall back into her former low estate, or she must seek to maintain that position to which she had been raised. This could only be done by holding fast her link with Israel, and that even at personal cost; in other words, by cleaving to Naomi, though all natural expectation in connection with her was gone. The latter is Ruth's course, not intelligently; indeed, as to the positional gain such adherence would bring to her, but influenced by the still finer motive of personal devotion to the one through whom she had been already raised so far from her low estate. How she acted and succeeded in this course is detailed to us in this interesting book, and is recorded with great minuteness as a subject of deep importance to ourselves, for whether we regard Ruth as a type of the church, or of a Gentile believer, or of any believing woman, her history supplies a chapter in God's dealings which is very instructive to us.

The first characteristic of either must be simple devotion to known truth; and this characteristic is finely developed in Ruth. She sacrifices all hope of alteration of her state for the sake of adhering to Naomi, come what will, to whom she says, "Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me". What an utterance is this. It is that of one stedfastly devoted to one object. What an expression of a soul firmly resolved to abide by all the truth of God, the link with all His purposes and blessings! The first part of the armour of God (Ephesians 6) is to be "girt about with truth"; and the first requisite of a servant in Christ, above all when in the unobtrusive sphere of a woman, is to be simply and unequivocally devoted to the truth of God.

Naomi, as we have seen, was the link to Israel. Ruth may not have known much about it, but that only makes her devotion the more admirable, for had she known more

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she must have had more reason and incentive for it, instead of the pure affection and appreciation which controlled her.

When the heart lays hold of truth, even though it knows not why, with a tenacity which will buy it and sell it not, we may rest assured it will be more fully unfolded, and "to him that hath shall more be given". Devotion to a true object ennobles a woman. If she has it not she is destitute of the first quality of her condition; when she fails in it, and thinks of herself as Eve did toward Adam, or the church toward Christ, then every disorder will ensue; devotion to truth, to what is known by us as the really true and good, is the first great characteristic of a soul prepared and qualified for service and testimony. If we have not this quality all our ways must be imperfect, for we can have no defined centre! To be God's witness among men who have believed a lie of Him and have walked in it, glorifying themselves while they walked in hostility to Him, we must first and foremost be valiant for the truth. If we be deficient in this quality it is evident our ability for testimony is deficient, nay, more, in attempting to be a witness we are compromising the very name we assume to serve. We have not a heart thoroughly set on maintaining the first requisite of service. We may have a certain amount of affection, like that expressed by Orpah's kiss, but like her our affection rests not on that which is alone true, and we shall soon turn aside to our own ways. We cannot too earnestly press on our souls the importance of this simple devotion to truth.

When love to the Lord is deep in our hearts we seek association with Him, He is the object of our affection, and as we have the affection we cleave to Him who produces it; as we appreciate Him we are identified with Him, and nothing else will satisfy a truly devoted soul. What is true of Him can on no account be relinquished and anything false is refused. I dwell on this point because so much of the character of a true servant of the church depends on it. Ruth, we see, was simple and unwavering in her purpose

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of heart, and she presents to us a striking type of this essential quality which we shall find meets with a great reward.

But before we touch on the reward we may note another characteristic prominently presented and fully exemplified in Ruth's history, and that is, simple obedience in the most servile and unconspicuous toil. She enters the land of Israel inseparable from the once Naomi (pleasant), now reduced to Mara (bitter); but resigned to her circumstances, nay, content in them, she addresses herself to the smallest opening which is presented to her, which is always an evidence of a healthy and vigorous soul, and without hesitation or demur she embraces it. She says, "Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace".

It is the most unequivocal proof of true energy when in any strait we are not only resigned but ready to embrace any little opening to us, able to humble ourselves thereto and to testify to every one, even to our own souls, that God has not forgotten us and that what is directly before us is quite sufficient to meet our necessities. We only require to be humble to find it so. If we were to say or feel otherwise we should impugn His care and interest on our behalf. Ruth sees that there is no opening for her but in gleaning, and to gleaning she addresses herself, and this was the Lord's opening for her. Very humble unconspicuous labour no doubt, but He sees not as man seeth, and He led her by the right way; to "the meek shall he teach his way", and therefore "her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech". "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted". When we are docile we are led to fulness of blessing. Unless we embrace the humble opening presented to us we shall never reach the goal of blessing. Ruth was the humble, laborious servant, and as such she receives her reward for her devotedness to Naomi. Mark! it is for her devotion she is rewarded, more than for her service. Boaz said to her, "It hath fully been shewed me,

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all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore: the Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God, under whose wings thou art come to rest".

Boaz blessed her -- a blessing which he afterwards (like all blessers) shared in himself -- and he also commanded his young men, saying, "Let her glean among the sheaves, and reproach her not: and let fall some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not", Thus we see Ruth receives more on account of her devotion to Naomi than she obtains by her honest and continual toil; and this is always the case. However great the recompense for faithful service, that of devotion immeasurably exceeds it. Had Ruth gone to the field to glean as did the other handmaidens, she would have obtained her due, what her labour merited, but no more. But it was far otherwise with her: devotedness to one (Naomi) was the spring of all her work, and the result was to her, as we shall find it to ourselves when animated with a like spirit -- the in-gathering is exceeding abundant. And not only so, the devoted one is led on, step by step, until she attains full rest, honour and, finally, inheritance. The sequel of her history shews us this: she ultimately becomes the wife of Boaz, the true kinsman, who redeems the inheritance; and according to the blessing pronounced on her she builds up the royal house of David, even as Rachel and Leah built up the house of Israel. The poor Moabitess is brought into close proximity to the throne of Judah, and she makes the name of her kinsman-redeemer "famous" in Bethlehem Ephratah, the place of death and resurrection! A wondrous result this from so humble a beginning, but one in full keeping with God's ways in discipline.

And now that we have reached this result in Ruth's history, let us pause, for our souls' profit, to mark the discipline by which the Lord led her (in fact, that by which

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He leads every soul who attains the same end) to this place of rest and honour; for well is it for us to note how He empties before He fills -- how He humbles before He exalts. First, she is a widow -- deprived of all human hope in that life which was most honourable to her, and which her alliance with a son of Israel had elevated her to. She next surrenders country, kindred and the natural expectations which she might have had, by falling back on her former low estate as a Moabitess, for the company of one linked with her condition of widowhood, but who had been reduced from pleasantness to bitterness, and this association entailing on her constant, humble, unremitting toil. Refusing or despising no opening, however humble, she pursues her lowly, toilsome, unobtrusive course from day to day, and daily finds how gracious and merciful the. Lord is to her; so much so, that it fills her with wonder and amazement, for on the first day of it, she says to Boaz, falling on her face, and bowing herself to the ground, "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?" The soul is little prepared for God's unexpected mercies; yet what were those to what followed? What was her former condition previous to widowhood in comparison to that so full of honour and dignity in which the Lord now places her! Blessed widowhood, to have prepared her for such a place! Blessed process which led on to it in the paths of single-eyed devotedness and humility! Blessed God, to have thus dealt with her!

It will be remembered that Ruth came to Bethlehem in the beginning of the barley-harvest, which commenced immediately after the feast of the Passover, and continues her services during the seven weeks of harvest (a perfect period according to the symbolical numeration of scripture) to the end of the wheat-harvest, that is, unto Pentecost, and after Pentecost it is that Boaz claims her as his own. I mention this as significant, whether we regard Ruth as a type in a practical or in a positional aspect, for Pentecost typified that full fruition of blessing marked by

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the descent of the Holy Ghost. After the seven weeks which elapsed between the Lord's death and Acts 2, that great day of Pentecost, to which all other days had pointed, "had fully come", and which installed the bride in the place of privilege. On the other hand, though the church be now in the blessings of Pentecost, yet, if she walks not in the faithfulness to the truth committed to her, and in patient, dutiful service, she cannot realise the high privileges conferred on her, the reason of which is very simple.

If I am not true to the Lord, as far as I know Him, I am not led by His Spirit, and if I am not. walking in the Spirit, I cannot by any possibility realise the privileges and nearness proper to the bride, and into which the Holy Ghost is commissioned to lead us. Again, what is true of the church as a whole is true of every individual member. The woman is here given in type, because, as a unit, she ought to represent the church, the bride of the last Adam, as redeemed from the ruin and shame into which the first woman plunged her. But whether man or woman, if we walk not in devotion to the truth and in patient, humble, unconspicuous service as strangers on the earth, we cannot enter into the relationship and place of rest which our Boaz vouchsafes to each of His faithful Ruths in spirit even now. And the more we comprehend His ways with us, the better shall we understand how He is teaching each of us after this manner: teaching us as faithful to our light to walk therein to the full fruition of His love, as widows in this world, devoted to Him, and serving Him patiently and obscurely, but satisfied if we realise what is already ours now -- even our union with Him, and possession of all that His love can share with us.

May we learn, O Lord, to follow Thee!


If we comprehend the condition of God's people at any one period, we shall then be able to understand why the one who is most used to serve them should be fitted, in his

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own life and circumstances, for the service. An unsuitable servant, however willing, must render inadequate service. His discipline and education, we shall find in scripture, are always with reference to the place that he is appointed to hold. Israel, up to Samuel's time, had no king: "every one did that which was right in his own eyes", and, consequently, must have learned by experience that "he that trusteth his own heart is a fool", and that only through God's intervention were they ever delivered from those who ruled over them. And not only this, but they themselves as a people were in every way gradually departing more and more from all acknowledgment of God.

It is in the progress of this state of things that Samuel is born; but he does not take his place as God's servant until Eli (the martyr of a condition of things which he deprecated, but had not power to reform) is dead.

Samuel's mother is a type of the godly remnant in Israel at that time, and Samuel himself of the blessing vouchsafed to that remnant. Hannah, because of her distress and the reproach of the adversary, prayed to the Lord in the bitterness of her soul. Forms and demonstrations were dispensed with. To the unexpressed breathing of her soul she pleaded with the Lord, so that the holy priest under the law did not understand.

The sorrowing one of Israel is wiser than the high priest, because she felt her condition and her sorrow: her reply to his rebuke corrects him, and he has grace to accept it.

Hannah's prayer was for Samuel. What will suit a true, holy, sorrowing individual, will suit the whole family of God's people. The answer to Hannah's prayer was the answer to every sorrowing cry in Israel. Samuel will suit each and all: he is the answer to the prayer of sorrow, and as such he is dedicated to the Lord and abides with Him.

Now let us look at Samuel himself. The more his understanding opens, the more he is aware that he is called, as the answer to prayer; and that on that account he has been dedicated to the Lord, to be ever before Him,

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so that very early he must have had an idea of his mission: at all events, it is evident that he had the best education for it. If the sorrowing, oppressed Hannah has received him in answer to prayer, and has returned him to the Lord as the Lord's gift, must not Samuel be continually reminded of the efficacy of prayer -- himself the living witness of it?

In Samson, the last of the judges, we saw power committed to man; and though he performed great exploits now and again, more was accomplished in the death of the witness than in his life. In Samuel a new state of things is introduced. The afflicted one, calling on God, is heard, and the answer, even Samuel, becomes the channel of deliverance through prayer. The very power which brought himself into existence he is now to exercise on behalf of his suffering people; not as the man of physical strength, as was Samson, but as the man of prayer. Moreover, a true principle is enunciated in the case of Hannah -- even that the blessing which God sends us for ourselves is large enough for all His people.

In prayer there is not only a sense of dependence, but the truly praying soul expects an answer or communication from God. But often, before we have learned the deep reality of what prayer is, we may be in the place of the praying one, like Samuel, and yet not able to understand the Lord's voice. Thus we find in the first recorded account of Samuel's practical life (chapter 3) these words, Samuel was ministering before the Lord, and he had laid himself down to sleep ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord. The whole scene declares the moral condition of the nation at the time. "The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision". "Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see". Samuel had lain down "ere the lamp went out". This implies that it was allowed to go out habitually, which was contrary to the commandment, Everything indicated feebleness. Samuel is given in answer to Hannah's prayer -- Hannah

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the type of the sorrowing remnant. Therefore Samuel enters the temple as the exponent -- the living witness of the power and value of prayer -- as we read of him in Psalm 99, "Samuel among them that call upon his name".

But in order to render such a service, or to fill the place appointed for him, he must first learn to understand the voice of the Lord. One may be in the right place and yet know not the living blessings connected with that place. Samuel is set forth to us as one who, by waiting on God, can repair the disasters which Samson by his great strength, could not; he is the witness of the superiority of prayer to personal might. But if he be the witness of the efficacy of prayer, he must be disciplined for his service. And the first great lesson after drawing near is to understand in the soul the communication of the Lord -- to know His voice. What is the use of drawing nigh unto Him, if one never receives any distinct light or communication from Him? I believe it to be the greatest and most blessed attainment for the soul, and withal most necessary for the one who draws near, to acquire a clear knowledge of the Lord's mind. Many draw near, but are too like Samuel in the beginning of this scene, unable to recognise the Lord's communications. How many pray, and pray again, who, though pacified and consoled by their prayers, yet have not had, nor have they sought, any distinct assured instruction from the Lord touching the subject of their prayers. Now, prayer of that kind will never afford the strength and joy which he receives who knows in faith what the Lord's mind is. I do not say that the Lord will tell one exactly what He will do, though even that I should expect in particular cases, when there was simple waiting on Him. In the opening of Samuel's ministry, the Lord causes him to recognise His own voice, and reveals unto him His word at the same time; and this was the sure basis of the testimony which his life expressed, namely, to seek the Lord in every exigency, and to be known among His prophets as one that called upon His name. Samuel has now learned not only the voice of the

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Lord, but also the word of the Lord, that is, His purposes: When we learn the voice of the Lord, we shall readily comprehend His mind as conveyed in His word. Samuel now knows what are God's thoughts about the state of things, and "his word came to all Israel". We have power to testify when we are taught of God.

But a man who would prove and testify of his resources in God, must not expect a smooth, easy course. Samuel in the beginning of his testimony or service (chapter 4) sees Israel reduced to the lowest condition, discomfited before the Philistines, the ark of God taken, the priests slain, and Eli dead. Disasters do not daunt the man of prayer; yet it must have exercised his soul to see such a crash just as he had entered on his service. All seemed lost, but the soul that has learned to distinguish the Lord's voice and to understand His word, will not be disheartened, though all the bulwarks of God's government be subverted. Samuel was such an one, and he could count on God; he says (chapter 7), "gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord". It is worthy of remark, that previous to this he warned the people, and led them to renounce the strange gods, and to serve the Lord only. "Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only". If I understand God, I understand His nature, I simply and distinctly own Him as the one Lord, and His name one. If there be misapprehension of the true God, or any intervention of man's ordering, there must always be a barrier and a delay to my finding Him. Samuel called upon the people to serve the Lord only, and to put away all strange gods. This is all essential in seeking deliverance from the Lord. And to the lack of this can be traced all our want of success in prayer, the Lord is not simply and entirely our God. Covetousness is idolatry, that is, the heart is seeking something else besides God. A covetous man could not say that he served the Lord only, and consequently he could not expect deliverance from the Lord because it would not attach him more to the Lord; on the contrary, relief from

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a momentary pressure would the better enable him to pursue the desires of his heart uninterruptedly. Samuel led the people into that state of soul in which they could seek the Lord; and the new and wondrous way in which God would deliver them from their enemies is about to be disclosed to them.

We read, "And they gathered together at Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned", 1 Samuel 7:6. Such is always the true way -- to have the soul restored with God before we enter into conflict with any special enemies. Samuel leads God's people to this, and now they are prepared and waiting for the Lord's intervention; but the moment they prepare for the enemy by waiting on God, that moment Satan urges on his emissaries (the Philistines) to oppose and renew the strife, "When the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel". Israel, though contrite and restored in the presence of God, are not yet experienced enough in God's power on their behalf to be undisturbed by fear of the violence of man. A soul may be quite assured before God, and resting in His acceptance, who yet may greatly fear the violence of the wicked and the power of darkness. Nothing can relieve the soul of this terror but experience; I mean experience of God, the soul making use of the power of God which it enjoys in its acceptance. Peter had this experience after his rescue by the angel, when he said, "Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod", etc.

The fear of man often remains though the soul may be at peace with God, but when it can say, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me", this is experience. It is therefore not to be wondered at that the children of Israel, when they heard of the coming of the lords of the Philistines, were afraid, but they had learned in a measure the value of prayer in the sight of

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God; and they say unto Samuel, "Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines". They knew wherein Samuel's great strength lay. "And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the Lord: and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel".

The Lord always vouchsafes to the praying one depending on Himself a deliverance beyond one's utmost conception; and it is brought about in no ordinary or human way. As with Paul in the jail at Philippi, so here the Lord acts in quite an unexpected way, a way not thought of, because it was beyond human conception. The thunder of God is the answer to prayer, and the Philistines are discomfited; Israel follows up the rout, and "smote them, until they came under Beth-car". When we see our enemies routed, if we have valour at all, we can easily pursue and follow it up; but we have no power to act until the Lord's intervention assures our hearts that we may do so. When God is felt to be on our side we can say "who can be against us?" Samuel must commemorate this signal mercy of the Lord, for every deliverance in answer to waiting on God is to us an Ebenezer. It is really of our Lord and Saviour, the chief corner-stone. He is the exponent to us of the tender love of our God, and when mercy is vouchsafed to us, the heart is revived in remembrance of Him. Then it is that we get the sense, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me"; we have the exhilarating consciousness that He is our stone of help. What happy service for Samuel, after the anguish he must have passed through on account of the desolation around. The mercy was a permanent one -- every Ebenezer is! The Philistines were subdued, and they "came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand

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of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel" -- the man of prayer.

Samuel had now established his title to judge Israel. By dependence on God he had received of the resources of God, and now he takes his place as judge of a delivered people. He went in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh; the latter must not be forgotten, for there he had proved his commission. Samuel dwelt at Ramah, and at home he cultivated what he proved abroad, for "there he built an altar unto the Lord".

We have now traced how Samuel learned, by prayer and dependence on God, to deliver His people out of the greatest degradation and feebleness; and how in consequence He is their judge. And here (as I may so say) one era of his life, or the life of dependence, closes; but another begins -- for that is the peculiarity, and blessing, too, of the life of dependence, that no sooner have you reached one goal, perhaps at the end of a long laborious exercise, but you have to enter on another, consequent on the very position which, through the Lord's mercy, you have attained. Samuel, by dependence on God, has been vouchsafed signal deliverance from outside enemies. The Philistines are subdued, and he himself judges Israel. But, alas! it is with him as with us all; when nature comes in and works, he fails, and confusion is the result.

It was clearly nature in Samuel to make his sons judges in the land when he was old. He had enjoyed for a long period of his life the fruits of his first great and deep exercises of dependence; but now, when he is old, he seems to lapse into worldly arrangements, in making his sons judges. It is not dependence on God now, but carnal policy, and it is unsuccessful: "his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment". We read in 1 Samuel 8:4, 5: "Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the

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nations". This is a trying moment for Samuel, but one of great instruction for him, and for us through him. When the one who has known the blessing of dependence on God has been drawn aside into thinking and acting for himself, no greater mercy can be vouchsafed to him than that he should be involved in such straits that nothing but the return to dependence on God can afford any relief.

There were two painful truths in the petition of the elders which must have greatly tried Samuel. First, the failure of his policy through his own sons. This is the point where every man would feel most, and the better the man, the more would he feel it. Secondly, the wilfulness and ungodliness of the nation in asking for a king. Poor Samuel! His family had disappointed him, and his nation had grievously requited all his labours and service. It is not now the Philistines: it is their own inward corruption. What a moment! What could the aged Samuel do? We read, "And Samuel prayed unto the Lord". The perplexing strait has been used to restore his soul into the old and well-known channel of dependence; and, as is ever the case to the really dependent one seeking His glory, God answered him in a most gracious, soothing way, entering into all His servant's feelings, as follows: "they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them". Samuel was the link between the judges and the kingdom, or the type of the faithful in the interval between the manifested failure of Israel, as a people governed by God, and the setting up of the kingdom. Samson properly closed that period, which mainly was characterised by power through human agency, of which he was personally the greatest example.

Samuel presents to us quite another order of power, one more successful than any preceding it, even prayer and dependence on God. He illustrates to us how blessed dependence on God is, and how great are the deliverances which flow from it; and he also connects us with the kingdom, and is himself superseded by God's anointed king, even David. But first he must give place

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to Saul; for the witness of dependence on God, the man of prayer, must be prepared to encounter in patience all the antagonism, however protracted, which arises to test his faith. Saul was the representative of Israel's idea of a king, and God sanctioned his appointment. As Ishmael was to Isaac, so was Saul to David -- the natural to the spiritual. Man's king is first tried before the Lord sets up His king. The aged Samuel, the man of prayer and dependence on God, is called on to appoint and anoint Saul. God sanctioned the man who was truly the impersonation of Israel's mind. And more than this, "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he prophesied". As the law exposes to a soul, who seeks God through it, how really guilty it is, so Saul exposed how incompetent Israel were to help themselves by a king of their own choosing, even when sanctioned of God.

Samuel is now educated in a very different line from that in which his public history opened. Now an old man, and at the close of his life, and of his testimony to the blessedness of dependence on God, he must endure with patience, and cooperate, as long as he can. While this experiment is being carried out, he must suppress all the sad and bitter feelings which might crowd on his mind -- he must wait on God, and wait for the end, until God brings it to an end. His manner and spirit in this sad work is very encouraging to us. It is easier to rise up and repose in God, reckoning on His deliverance from open enemies, like the Philistines, than to acknowledge and co-operate in all that professes well around you. Samuel, in obedience to the Lord, submits to the trial of man's king, accepting him and owning him as acknowledged of God, until the contrary was manifested; but, at the same time, observes two lines of action, namely, faithfulness to the people, in warning them of their apostasy, and the retribution due to it, but also faithfulness to God -- which led him to disown the king the moment he relinquished the principles ordained of God.

We must remember that Samuel had led Israel by

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dependence on God into security and deliverance from their enemies, and that he erred in supposing that his sons could succeed to his own position. He is rebuked and afflicted by their incompetency and evil. And now the people, by their elders, renounce the position of dependence on God, which in the person of Samuel insured such blessings to them. They will return to personal valour, not now in instruments raised up of God, but in a king like the nations. The difference between the judges and the kings was this -- the former led the people because of a direct commission from God, the latter by popular acceptance. Samuel is now in something of the same position as Moses was when the people proposed to keep the law; he has to stand aside and let them try; and when they fail, as assuredly they must, to be able to come forward and apply God's remedy. Samuel fully and explicitly expounds to the people their apostasy and its consequences; but, at the same time, he equally commends himself to us by his ready help and forbearance with Saul, so long as it was possible. What education this was! The value of dependence on God is more needed and proved by him than ever. How it invigorates his soul! His sons a failure and reproach, the nation renouncing dependence on God, seeking a king who should supersede himself, and yet Samuel moves on through it all.

He is now directed by the Lord to protest solemnly unto the people, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. And he fully and explicitly does so. The man of faith is told to expose and denounce every step contrary to it; having done so, he can endure patiently, whilst man's independence is on its trial; nay, he will sanction and acknowledge it, so far as he may have divine authority. His manner to Saul is very beautiful. He not only receives him as an honourable guest, but he announces to him that in him is all the desire of Israel. And not only this, but he made him sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden. And to distinguish him still more the shoulder is set before him, while Samuel said, "Behold

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that which is reserved!" And, finally, he "took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?" What a discipline for Samuel to act after this manner! He illustrates to us the graceful action and calm submission of one practising dependence on God, and of one, too, who had practised it. He is the really dependent one, who will not anticipate events, but submit patiently to an order of things which, though ending in failure, is not yet manifested as such.

We next find Samuel calling all the people together unto the Lord at Mizpeh; 1 Samuel 10:17. There was an important association with Mizpeh, for there they had turned to the Lord, and had learned the blessing of praying to God; 1 Samuel 7:5, 6. Here he presents Saul to them. And Samuel said unto the people, "See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people". He can see himself set aside with dignity, grace and even cheerfulness, because it was the will of the Lord. It is only the meek, dependent servant who will understand the Lord's will as new and diverse circumstances arise. Continually you find an inclination to press an ascertained principle of right under every conceivable circumstance. The principle may be true, and if so, will be vindicated. But God often confounds the opposer before He brings forth His judgment, and the really dependent soul like Samuel will accord with His mind, and move on righteously and charitably.

In chapter 11: 14 Samuel says to the people, "Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there". There is no grudging, nothing of necessity in Samuel's actings. When Saul, by his prowess, had proved himself worthy of the kingdom, Samuel comes forward and proposes to the people to take the highest ground -- to renew the kingdom at Gilgal -- to crown Saul in the spot sacred to all the great energies of truth and power which had marked the brightest hour of their history. Abraham did not give place to Lot in more dignity and self-surrender

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than Samuel to Saul; nay, Samuel exceeded, for he honoured, and guarded, and counselled Saul, while it was of any use to do so. And from that time he retired to his own house, leaving the issue to God. But though he is full of charity, he is also righteous; and therefore he at length proclaims to the people that their wickedness is great in asking for a king. At the same time, he called unto the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain. He does not shrink from declaring to the people their great wickedness, though he has shewn every readiness to bear with them, and now assures them he will not cease to pray for them.

Who but one depending on God could combine these things so fully and perfectly? It is wonderful the ability one gets to be both charitable and righteous when one is really walking in dependence on God! Charity will suffer and sanction all it can -- it hides a multitude of sins; but the moment there is any dishonour done to God, or any perversion of His truth, then righteousness asserts its inflexible claim, and the delinquent, be he who he may, meets his desert. Thus it was with Saul. Though Samuel had honoured and supported him while he was walking amiably as a man among men, yet the moment he infringed on the ordinances of God (when Saul offered the burnt offering) Samuel spared him not, but said, when Saul went to meet him to salute him, "What hast thou done?" and then added, "Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But, now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee". When we walk in full charity, and at the same time are truly faithful to God, we may be assured that the Lord will, when He has proved us, expose the concealed evil which we had come with, only because it was not disclosed. It is charity

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to bear with man as long as it is permitted by God's word; but charity must cease when any inroad is made on God's commandment; every feeling for man must give way in order to vindicate the decrees of God. And the one who, like Samuel, has learned to walk in forbearance and charity towards a Saul, while at the same time protesting against the principle of independence, will at length be given an opportunity of exposing the assumption of the flesh.

Saul condemns himself in trenching on the priestly service, which is always the ripened expression of human independence -- a Cain is consummated in a Korah. (See Jude 11.) Samuel knows the kingdom cannot be established in Saul, but he once more tests him, by sending him against the Amalekites. Saul fails again, and Samuel is greatly distressed. He did not wish for the evil day, though he had predicted it; and he is so grieved at this breakdown that he cries unto the Lord all night, like Jeremiah; and, consequently, when the time comes for action, how suitably and faithfully he acts! He "hews Agag in pieces" and addresses Saul with a censure, not only most pointed, but fraught with divine principles far beyond the light and revelation of the dispensation in which he served. How instructive is the spirit of Samuel in this scene! He had adhered to Saul hoping that help would accrue to God's people through him; but now, convinced that there was no hope, Samuel went to his house at Ramah. And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death, not that he was indifferent about him, for it is said, "Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul". He had reckoned, more than one would have supposed, on help flowing to Israel through Saul; and he had to be taught that the representative of the people must be a failure. He is graciously brought to know this, as every soul will be, who is truly faithful to God. Samuel's faithfulness -- his single eye, made him "full of light" -- luminous; and if, for a moment, he had expected too much from what God had allowed to be put on trial, while acting

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in charity to men and in faithfulness to God, in the end he was fully justified in abandoning man's king; and this is a great lesson for the servant of God. No doubt Samuel mourned for Saul, and so did the Lord for Jerusalem; he was distressed at the ruin to all human hopes. But the blessed God who had led His servant into his present sorrowful place of retirement, overwhelmed with the failure in the throne, will now complete His favour to him by introducing His own king to him, and by appointing him to anoint him. How it must have relieved and rejoiced the heart of Samuel to find himself, at last, in the presence of God's king, the man after God's heart. And not only this -- when David was persecuted by Saul, his companion in exile was Samuel: "He [David] and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth", chapter 19: 18.

What a close! How blessed and suited for such a history! Samuel is lost in David. After dwelling with him during the season of his rejection, Samuel, the man of prayer and dependence, passes away (chapter 25: 1) from the scene of his former ministry, of his exercises, and of his discipline, ere the rightful king -- God's anointed, whom Samuel had owned -- takes the sceptre.

May we know, like him, the blessing of dependence on God, and may we understand the discipline which, however searching and sifting, is but leading us to Naioth, to dwell with our Lord and King; and, finally, to be lost in Him, who will ere long take the place in which our hearts have set Him now, even the throne!


In order to understand the discipline to which David was subjected, it is needful to bear in mind the great One whom he typified, and whose character could only be expressed and foreshadowed by him, through divine teaching, and the mortification of his nature. He was, as to his position, constantly a type of the Lord Jesus Christ; but, being a

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man of like passions as we are, the higher his calling, the more he required to be self-mortified in order that his condition of soul might correspond with his elevated position: and therefore we shall see that the great aim of all the discipline which he undergoes is fit to him for the place to which God in His grace appoints him.

And is it not thus with us all? Do we not need to be disciplined and prepared for any place which grace confers on us? The higher we are raised through the same grace into the apprehension of the grace itself, the more do we require to be purged: and how this is done, our own private histories, if faithfully recorded, would detail. In order, therefore, that we may learn to note and observe His discipline with ourselves carefully and accurately, our blessed God presents to us a recorded history of His ways with others who have gone before us; and that of David is a striking exemplification of that wondrous nurture and admonition by which He educates -- subduing and mortifying us in order to suppress what runs counter to His grace and purpose.

The first notice we have of David is when Samuel is sent of God to anoint him king instead of Saul; 1 Samuel 16. Here, in the first circle of his life which is presented to us, we trace the elements of the character and position of one who is so largely to engage our attention afterwards. We find him, the youngest son of Jesse, absent from home, caring for his father's sheep in the wilderness; and his countenance, that true index of the innermost being, announcing what manner of man he is -- "ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to". And when Samuel anointed him, "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward".

Typically, David as anointed represents our Lord after the baptism of John, when the Holy Ghost descended from heaven and abode upon Him. And as the Lord entered on His public ministry, consequent on this anointing of the Holy Ghost, so also does David, the type, enter on his. Our Lord, full of grace and truth, was

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thereby exposed the more to the evil around; and now as soon as the Spirit of God comes upon David, "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him". David, doubtless, little knew, when the Spirit came upon him, that his first essay as God's man would be to assuage the violence, the spiritual violence, of the head of the kingdom. Saul had been advised to seek out a man who was a cunning player on the harp to chase the evil spirit from him; and the very man recommended to render this service is David, who is fitly described as one "cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and. the Lord is with him". "And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him". What an apparently humble service for God's anointed king, one might be ready to say! But what moral pre-eminence! It seems but a small thing to play on a harp; but small services done under the power of God's Spirit effect the most remarkable result.

The Lord, while on earth, filled this place with reference to the evil and violence of all the power that surrounded Him; but to David it was also discipline. Whether he understood what the anointing in its full bearing indicated we are not told; but coupling this with the fact of the Spirit of God coming upon him, he must have felt that he had abilities for a higher office. But here the genuineness of true power and subjection to God are proved. It was God's appointment that he should fill the place: the king required his services, and he rendered them without gainsaying: nay, rather, with consummate ability. Faithfulness in the least proves competency for the greatest; and David is taught in his first public start to use the great abilities which God had given him to promote the greatest good required at the time. And what can be more noble or kingly!

Though David was greatly beloved by Saul, and became

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his armour-bearer, it appears that he was only occasionally with him, and that he had not surrendered the care of his father's sheep in the wilderness; for when Saul gives battle to the Philistines in the valley of Elah (chapter 17.) David is not with him, and we are expressly told that he had returned to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem, and that it was from thence that he by his father's instructions came to the scene of the battle -- I suppose about forty days after the commencement of it. I note this, because it shews us the alternations so useful and necessary in divine discipline. David had been an inmate of the palace, the king's armour-bearer, greatly loved by him, and, moreover, had rendered him the most signal services; but he passes from this to the humble place of caring for his father's sheep in the wilderness, and in obscurity serves with as much zeal and diligence as in the highest sphere; thus proving, by the facile way in which he passes from one to the other, the true metal of soul and the singleness of his purpose, as a faithful servant, in whatever is required of him

A more signal and glorious service is, however, now in store for him; but it is brought about iii a very humble way; for he, by order of his father, emerges from the wilderness and the care of the flock on a very simple mission, viz., to take supplies to his brethren and to see how they fare. But while diligently executing this order, an opening for, and demand on him arises for testifying to the glory of God; and for this demand the man of God is ever ready. David having first discharged the purposes of his mission, is arrested by hearing the Philistine defy the armies of the living God, and his spirit stirred within him, he immediately determines to encounter him. How prompt to act and self-possessing is the power of God! Though commissioned for a simple errand, he is ready at a moment's notice to enter on the most notable service with the utmost zeal and prowess, though at the same time with the greatest simplicity. Refusing Saul's armour, which he had "not proved", he takes what is most natural to

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him -- five smooth stones from the brook; thus indicating that he needs no greater means than those which came within the range of his calling. So with the simple equipment of a shepherd he is content and fearless, and can face the terrible foe with a staff, a shepherd's bag, a sling and five stones -- smooth ones, too!

How fully must he have possessed divine power to be able to apply it with such quietness and composure. David meets Goliath as he might have met a child, and returns his challenge with all the dignity which invests one who knows that the power which he implicitly rests on will be his weapon. Dependence on God, whose deliverance he has proved in his own private wilderness-conflicts with the lion and the bear, renders him fearless and calm in facing a more terrible adversary, before whom the whole host of Israel quailed. One stone sufficed, and the giant fell! David still equal to the moment, though he had rejected Saul's armour as a means of vanquishing, is now rightful possessor of that which he had vanquished; so he took Goliath's sword, stood upon him, and "cut off his head therewith" -- every action proving afresh the adroitness and wisdom of divine power.

Like the Lord Himself, he must find his greatest services unacknowledged, save by the little remnant attached to His person, and who were like the poor woman (Luke 7) who felt that He was everything to her, while the Pharisee and the great ones were hollow and unresponsive to Him. The Lord surely valued the love of His disciples, and it cheered Him in His course here, while so slighted and unknown of men. David was allowed still more solace, in the wonderful and touching attachment and devotion of Jonathan, who ever remained faithful to him: but he had also to learn that this is all he must reckon on, let his service be ever so great. He must not depend on those whom he has served, but only on the one whose affections he has won. It must be heart-allegiance, not popular or royal favour -- a blessed lesson for any servant, a fine and holy line for the soul to be led into.

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But ingratitude soon gives place to enmity. Saul now envies David, and "eyed him from that day and forward". And it came to pass, when "the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house", he attempted David's life with the javelin in his hand. Saul, I apprehend, is a type of the world, assuming a religious garb, just as Christendom is sustained by the world: and the more faithful we are in it, the more do we provoke its enmity. But how useful is this enmity to the man of God! It eventually, if he continues faithful, drives him away from all association with it; for, however he may serve, he can never win. I do not say that David had no right to go to Saul's house; he, typifying the Lord, was there as the deliverer; but in the end he is compelled to abandon it, as every faithful servant will find eve long that he must either fall or abandon all association with the world.

Various are the methods which Saul resorts to for David's destruction. Such bitter and un-deserved hatred may surprise us; but it only discloses to us the malice of the worldly professor, which no amount of goodness or service will disarm; while David presents to us the picture of one who likes to serve in the midst of his people -- a noble desire, and one most full, exemplified in the true David, who was God s greatest servant

Saul now tries to entrap David by offering him his eldest daughter, on condition that be would fight the Lord's battles; for he is not yet so hardened in iniquity that he would publicly lay hands on him: but he said, "Let the hand of the Philistines be upon him". David never gets Merab, though he evidently would have regarded it as a most unexpected honour; but it was not to be realised. "It is the continual dropping which weareth the stone", and this was always the character of schooling necessary for David. How he must have winced under vacillation and deceit for which he was so little prepared when he entered the royal circle! The noble and strong can ill brook the meanness of envy; but David was taught

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thereby the deceitfulness of godless man. Saul, contrary to all probity and honour, bestows Merab on Adriel; but still intent on David's destruction, he offers him Michal as a snare, on condition that he should obtain for dowry "an hundred foreskins of the Philistines". David readily acceded; not abiding by the limit of the contract, he, according to the greatness of his nature (for he will be no man's debtor), exceeds the condition, and "slew two hundred men". But the more we are above the spirit of the world, the more it will hate us; and Saul now "became David's enemy continually". This faithful servant must now have learned that all his goodness and service in the court was for nought; for increase of honour only brought more deadly and inveterate hatred. He must have experienced, in some small measure, the feelings of Him who said, "If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin.... They hated me without a cause".

There is no longer any cloak to this hatred; for "Saul spoke to Jonathan and all his servants that they should kill David"; and the latter is warned of this intention by Jonathan, who "delighted much in David". Touching and gracious are God's ways with His people! If He sees it needful to teach His servant by a bitter process the evil of association with this world, and that he must separate from it, He, at the same time, provides for him a devoted heart, in which he could entirely confide. David had one green spot, one fond enclosure -- a resource which his Antitype knew but little of on earth. Jonathan warns him, mediates with his father, and Saul relents, and "he was in his presence, as in times past". All these alternations of discipline are necessary. When we are brought so low as to "hide in a secret place", the reality of our resource in God is not only proved, but ascertained for ourselves; and when prosperity returns, we can contrast the quality of the rest known, when we are apparently resourceless, with that experienced when natural resources are abundant: for, however we may try, we can never find in

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the lower resource that rest which we have in the higher.

David, restored to favour, serves with diligence, but is soon assailed again, and only escapes by a stratagem of Michal -- she whom Saul had provided as a snare for him. And now, convinced that he cannot abide in the royal house any longer, he flies, renouncing his position, and everything dear to him as a man, except his life. And whither does he flee? Where does the break with Saul naturally drive him? To Samuel at Ramah. Samuel, after undergoing another line of discipline, had also retired from association with Saul. And now the true king, after every effort to serve and to win, the existing power, being forced to retire also, he cannot fail, as he walks in the divine path, to meet the one who had already traversed it. David and Samuel, the servant and the prophet, are congenial -- the one just entering, the other leaving the school of God; for David was as yet a youthful, while Samuel was an aged and well-trained learner in that school; but being of kindred spirit and aim, they meet and dwell together. And this is the true, holy and divine way to attain association with the godly. If you have traversed the divine path, and I enter thereon, we must meet and walk together, for though man's ways are many, God's is but one.

But what had David learned in all this, now that he is obliged to flee for his life, and seek shelter and sympathy with the separated prophet? He had learned by experience what it was to endeavour to maintain his place in the world which professedly owned God; and now convinced of the futility of the attempt, and still more of the wickedness which opposed him, he enters on a new line, even to learn what it is to walk under God's hand alone, and separated from all whom he was ready to serve; he had tasted of the world's acceptance, so dangerous and uncertain in its nature, and now he must be disciplined in the sorrows of rejection.

We must remember that David was God's own selection for the throne of Israel; and not only so, but that in the very commencement of his course he had been anointed

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for this high post; but in order to occupy it according to God, he must be educated in the qualities which become God's king. It is always God's way to appoint first, and then to qualify. With man it is the reverse: he requires qualification before appointment; but we may rest assured that God will fit us for whatever office He has destined us, after He appoints us thereto. This is the divine principle, as one has fitly expressed it: "First wears the laurel, then the fight begins". Thus God's first action towards David was to appoint him king, and from thence date all his experiences, exploits and difficulties; for I fully believe that it was after this that he killed the lion and the bear; but how long a process of probation did he require before he was fit to enter on the high place for which he was destined! At the stage which we are now considering he had passed through two courses of education: one at home, feeding his father's sheep in the wilderness, in which he had proved himself most valiant and successful; and the other in the highest position in the world, and withal the religious world -- loved by some, the people's delight, but envied by the king; the object alternately of favour, deceit and enmity, and at length compelled to surrender his position and escape for his life. The first circle in our histories will always be found to embrace and disclose the chief qualities which will distinguish every subsequent circle; consequently, nothing is more important to a Christian than how and under what guidance he commences and describes his first circle. David's was of a fine order and contained all the elements of moral beauty which the succeeding circles so amply developed, as we shall see. He now entered on his third course, which extends unto the death of Saul, and may be designated the period of his rejection, when the ruler of Israel thirsted for his life, a time of peculiar suffering, but of ample, manifold and blessed experience of the goodness of God, and at the same time of the weakness of his own nature.

We have seen that David fled to Ramah and dwelt with the prophet who had retired in sorrowing faithfulness

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from the scene and associations from which David was now driven, and surely Ramah must have been a scene of mourning then, as in later times "a voice was heard at Ramah, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning". David and Samuel doubtless mourned together deeply and sorely over the misrule of Saul, who, relentless as Herod, pursues David even here. But when he attempts to intrude on their retreat, the Spirit of God subdues him, and David, apparently unprotected, is taught at the opening of this new and sorrowful path how distinctly God can shield him. But he is not yet prepared to relinquish his position without a struggle, and he leaves Naioth to seek Jonathan and ascertain from him whether it is irretrievable; chapter 20. They meet, a signal is agreed upon, which confirming Saul's implacability, David's fate is sealed, and emerging from his retreat, and one with, Jonathan, he gives vent to the agonising sorrow of a full heart. Still self-possessed and courteous on approaching Jonathan, he "fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded". What a scene was this! what a wrench! The last link which bound David to the useful and once glorious scene in which he had lately moved is broken. Bereft in a moment of all he valued and loved; honour, position, service, recede from his view and even the companionship of the heart that still remained faithful to him. He must henceforth give up his public career, his relationship to the king, his valiant service to the people against their enemies, and the love and sympathy of Jonathan. He must retire to obscurity, and, as it seemed, to uselessness; and we all know what it is to human nature to relinquish what it has expected or possessed -- how difficult to return with any contentment to its former condition. For what cause was all this? For none but the unjust and deadly hate of the ruler of Israel; and unless David could discern as we do, that God Himself was setting the springs to work in order to educate and qualify him for future greatness, he might have been overwhelmed;

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for the conflict with the lion and the bear, with Goliath and the Philistines, were as nothing to this. Great must have been the desolation of that hour; and when the blessed Jesus wept over Jerusalem, surely sorrows of the same order, though surpassingly deeper and holier, harrowed His tender heart. David and Jonathan part with an oath and undisturbed attachment between them; but their lines diverge. David, the rejected king, must suffer awhile, and find other companions for his suffering and rejection; while Jonathan must "return to the city", his father's house, the link with which he cannot break. This scene shews us in type the true David in His, rejection, and the Jewish remnant, who neither suffer nor reign with Him.

Chapter 21. David was cast in complete reliance on God, and his first act after the wrench which we have been considering is to go to the high priest; for the one who takes the place of dependence, ever turns, though it may be without distinct consciousness as to its motive, to God's recognised testimony on earth. I believe that whenever we take the place of exile in the world for the Lord's sake, however unintelligently, we instinctively seek the church as God's established witness on earth. Thus David in principle does the same, though we may justly censure his untruthfulness to Abimelech; but seldom does the new man act that the old in its effort to co-operate does not betray weakness and moral degradation. He receives from Abimelech both bread and a sword (the very sword of Goliath, a remembrance of his first public victory), and he at the moment typified the place the Lord occupied in Israel, when His disciples were driven to appease their hunger by rubbing the ears of the standing corn as they passed through it. But how the mere human type breaks down when the strain is too great, and thus displays in fuller distinctness the perfection of the divine yet human Antitype. He supplies the broken or lost link, and at the same time disciplines the mere human vessel into association and sympathy with His own path.

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And now David fails still further. So great is his fear of Saul, though with the trophy of his victory over the giant in his hand, that he deserts the land, abandons the first place of privilege, and flees to Achish, king of Gath! But fed and armed from God's sanctuary, he yields to unbelief and leaves the Lord's inheritance. But unbelief always leads us into the sorrow which we seek to avoid, and from which we learn eventually that faith would have preserved us. The servants of King Achish soon recognise him, and David's next expedient is to feign himself mad! How humiliating! But now it is that his soul becomes solely occupied with God, and all the previous discipline bears fruit. It is necessary for him not only to see all he prized in the world fade away before him, but he must also feel that he himself is personally humiliated, and then it is that the full nature and value of the resources in God are appropriated. It is at this moment that the Spirit of God passes through David's soul the sweet, confiding notes recorded in Psalm 34, "I will bless the Lord at all times". He exclaims, "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears". Through bitter trials he had reached this blessed utterance, and in the same spot, so to speak, does the Spirit of God still utter it for every one who will pass that way. Driven out of the world, humiliated in himself before men and in his own eyes, denouncing his own "guile", he can now say, "The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate".

Chapter 22. David leaves Achish chanting Psalm 34, and escapes to Adullam. He is once more in the land, though it be but a cave; and there not only his own house, but all that were in distress, or in debt, etc., congregate to him. Having learned the place of dependence for himself, he can become a centre and guide for the poor of the flock, whose hearts did not own the rule of Saul; and they can follow his faith, considering the end of his conversation. Why David placed his parents with the king of Moab I cannot say, unless he desired to escape

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from their influence and fears. (We know how our Lord had to rise above His parents' counsels.) While in this cave he utters three Psalms -- Psalm 142, Psalm 57 and Psalm 52 -- the latter, I think, after he was joined by the prophet and priest. He expresses full confidence in God "until these calamities be overpast", though at the same time sensible of the dangers with which he is surrounded. His "heart is prepared", therefore he will "sing and give praise". We naturally shrink from trials and sorrows, but when we find ourselves, like David, enjoying the resources that are in God, which our trials have caused us to have recourse to, we remember no more the path of affliction which led us thereto.

Psalm 52 is David's utterance when he hears of Doeg's conduct. He sees God's discipline in all his sorrow: "I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it". How the Spirit of God was converting every trial into an occasion for engaging his soul with the deep chords of spiritual song and the day of glory. If Paul in Arabia was caught up to heaven, surely in the cave and the wilderness the outcast David was hearing in his soul the sublime strains of God's victory over every foe. He not only heard the harpers harping with their harps, but his own heart was attuned of God; and the divine music cheered the spirit of the rejected king.

Keilah is the next page in this interesting history; chapter 23. Whatever be the pressure or trial of our own position, if we are in the spirit and condition of soul answering to Psalm 57, we could not hear of the distress of any of God's people, which we could alleviate, without being ready to aid them. Consequently, when it was told David, "Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshing floors", he inquired of the Lord, saying, "Shall I go and smite these Philistines?" And the Lord says, "Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah". The man of real might and experience in God's succour appeals to God before he embarks in anything. David's men try to discourage him from it, and, after he

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has mastered his own heart and its sorrows, he must learn to be superior to the unbelief of his associates. He inquires yet again; and a further assurance being given him from the Lord, he goes down to Keilah with his men, and is completely successful; he saves the inhabitants. But this was only to bring about another order of trial and exercise of heart for him. Once more his services are unrequited. Saul goes down to besiege Keilah, and David inquires of the Lord as to whether the men whom he had just delivered from the Philistines will deliver him up; and the divine answer is that they will.

And here let us mark the difference in David's mode of inquiry in this and in the first instance. (verses 1 - 4.) It does not appear that he made use of the priest when seeking counsel as to relieving Keilah; but here, when "he knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him", and he wanted to know what should be his own line of action with reference to it, he says to the priest, "bring hither the ephod"; and thus he makes the inquiry. This difference is interesting. In the first instance it was a simple question as to whether he should or should not serve others; and, without questioning his motives, he has only to turn to the Lord for direction; but when our own interests are concerned we are much more likely to be led by our own will, and to lack singleness of heart and purpose; and thus we need the more to realise our full acceptance and to sift our motives; and here the priesthood comes in. But in either case the answer is prompt and distinct; and it is most instructive to note the manner of the intercourse between David and the Lord; what confidence and simplicity there was between them. David asks his plain simple questions, and the Lord answers as plainly and distinctly. He had no resource but in God; and this he was learning more and more in each stage of his life. Any soul in the Lord's presence, and truly reliant on Him, would experience the same. The simpler such a soul is, the more it is qualified for great and exalted service. The one great with God is he who can devote all his energies according to

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God's counsel to aid and serve others, but whose dependence is entirely on God, proving that his resources place him above recompense from those whom he serves. It is plain that we are not told all the services which David rendered, or the experiences which he passed through. I suppose a specimen of each particular line is recorded for as. That of Keilah I should designate, as how the rejected king serves this people without requital; and this is necessary discipline for him, nay, for any one who will walk with the true David through this evil world.

David now goes "whithersoever he could go" (verse 13), and eventually remains in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. Here Jonathan comes to him, and "strengthens his hand in God", fulfilling that vision of faith which he had expressed in Psalm 142, "The righteous shall compass me about". How graciously the Lord cheers us by human sympathy when we have entered the wilderness only depending on Him! How sweet to the soul to realise these instances of His compassion for us! But the cheer and encouragement of Jonathan's visit is soon chequered by the uncalled-for hostility of the Ziphites, who, in order to please Saul, inform him of David's retreat.

Whether it was on this occasion, when the treachery of the Ziphites was first known to him, that he uttered Psalm 54, or subsequently, it is immaterial to inquire; what is interesting for us to know, is the state of his mind at the time, and this the psalm discloses, "Strangers had risen up against him;" but he can add, "Behold, God is mine helper". Fully was this realised. Just as Saul and his men had succeeded in compassing him about to take him, a messenger comes, saying, "Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded, the land". David is delivered, and the spot is commemorated by the name of "the rock of divisions".

Thus it is that the power of man is rendered ineffectual. Man can never contend with two distinct enemies and he is obliged to let one escape in order to encounter the other. David has been taught in this strait, when all hope was

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well-nigh gone, how easily and simply the Lord can deliver him; and very important it is for a servant to learn experimentally these various proofs of God's care of him, so that, "strong in the power of his might", he may be able to say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me". This is another distinct lesson for David during the period of his rejection. At Adullam and in the wood he finds companions and sympathy; at Keilah he is permitted signally to serve, and baffles Saul by not depending on the recipients of his service; in the wilderness of Maon, when almost in the hand of the enemy, he escapes through the Lord's interposition. Thus variously and wonderfully was he learning the ways of God in an evil and hostile world; and, according as he learned them, he was the better qualified to lead and rule God's people in such a scene.

His antitype, the blessed Lord Jesus, needed no such instruction. He knew what was in man, and He alone is truly Lord and King. But David is a fine specimen of the human vessel, with large capacities and ready mind to receive the divine mind and ways. His circumstances vary very much, but whenever he is true to his lesson of dependence on God, he is in the right path.

After a short respite in the strongholds of Engedi, David is again sought after by Saul, who now goes out against him with three thousand of the chosen men of Israel. No longer content to pursue after him singly, he, with an organised force and deadly purpose, persists in his design. David must endure this pressure, but in the end he shall know that the greater the violence urged against him, the simpler and more effectual are the means used of God to deliver him. Saul was defeated at Keilah by its being abandoned by David; he was foiled at the Rock of Division by the invasion of the Philistines; and most ingloriously is he defeated at Engedi by the moderation and loyalty of David, to whom he owes his life. Little did he know, in the malice of his heart, how by entering the cave he thrust himself into the grasp of his desired victim; or

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how deeply he was to be humbled, morally, by the contrast between them, which this scene displays. The generous elevation of one in his superiority to evil and enmity shines forth in such vivid colours as to draw forth the acknowledgment of it from the lips of the persecutor, who is made so conscious of his own comparative abasement that he for the moment sues favour from and acknowledges the title of the fugitive, whom, with all his power and chosen army, he had come forth to destroy. As for David, by acting in grace instead of vengeance he maintained God's principle of action toward the world, which now lies under the sin of having rejected its rightful King.

Chapter 25 presents us with another line of experience. And here we shall find that David for a moment forgets the lesson of the power of grace which he had just so remarkably acted on; a warning to us of the treachery of our nature and how it may betray us into a very contrary line of action to that which we have only a moment before displayed. And still further, it teaches us that we are more likely to fail in grace toward one whose friendship and gratitude we have a title to reckon on than to an open enemy. David is so irritated by Nabal's ruthless conduct that he prepares to take summary vengeance on him, but is diverted from this avengeful course by the most interesting event and association which is ever known to God's servants in this Christ-rejecting world. Abigail is in type the church; and if we regard David as a type of the Lord she is his compensation in the day of his rejection for all he had lost in the kingdom. She is with him where even Jonathan cannot follow him, and after becoming his companion in suffering she shares his throne and glory. But we have also to consider David as the faithful servant, not perfect like the Lord, but under God's discipline and training; and in this aspect the influence of Abigail on him typifies that of the church, whose position and sentiments when made known suppress all notions of vengeance. Nabal is spared for Abigail's sake, who had provoked and confirmed in David's soul the blessed and dignified path of

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grace which became him in his rejection, and who also gladly shares with him his toil and sorrow. Thus the wilderness of Maon was an eventful scene for David; just as it is a great day in our lives as Christians when the church as to her calling and nature is first made known to us. For many a servant of God who feels the usurpation of professing religion as David did in the person of Saul, has not found the Abigail -- has not so learned what the church is in the mind of Christ, as to find therein interest, sympathy and companionship, as well as support in the path of grace in passing through this world. As Abigail was a green spot in the wilderness to David, so the church is the only green spot for the heart of Christ or His servants now on earth, the centre and object of His interest.

It is very necessary while studying the lines of instruction in which God educates His servant, to keep in mind that they are always in relation to the post for which the servant is destined. David is now only preparing for his great sphere of service; and previous to entering on it it is necessary that he should know the grace of the Lord in all its various ways.

We have just seen how the Lord helped and cheered him in the wilderness in a manner most unexpected to him, the whole circumstances unfolding in a remarkable way His tender and abounding love. If Adam required the company and help of Eve in the garden of Eden, how much more did David an Abigail in the desert? But "the greater the need, the greater the boon"; and this David's soul must have acknowledged. But after this bright moment the waters of persecution again encompass him; chapter 26. Saul, instigated by the Ziphites, again pursues him into the wilderness, which plainly intimated to David that the desperate issue was at hand. To the spiritual man oppressed by the world there is always given a very clear perception of the state and condition of the power brought against him. This grace is now given to David. He reconnoitres Saul and his army, understands what his own course should be, and having sought a companion

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forthwith entered on it. And for what object? Simply to shew that though his enemy were in his power he would not injure him. "Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and his spear stuck in the ground at his bolster", etc., when David and Abishai approach. The latter would have killed the sleeping king, but David interposed, alleging very distinctly and solemnly his confidence that God would be his avenger. The only trophies which he takes are the spear and the cruse of water, which indicate the true nature of the exploit. The spear (the implement of war) was returned, but we do not hear that the cruse was. Saul a second time acknowledges David's victory of grace, and in reply to his expostulation says, "I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day". What evidence had been accorded to David in this instance of the mighty power of God! Thus he proved what he uttered after his final deliverance: "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters".

But, alas! when our greatest deliverances take place we are often least sensible of the mercy vouchsafed. The very ingratitude of our enemies provokes a reaction in us unless we are so humbled and broken as to be occupied in magnifying the Lord instead of dwelling on ourselves. Having been in the Lord's hand, unless we abide there, subject to Him in praise, we are the more sensible of our own powerlessness. Now powerlessness with faith binds us the more to God as the sure rock of our strength and the fountain of supply; but powerlessness without faith always drives us to seek human succour: and after great deliverances we often make a false step, partly because we have got out of the energy of that faith which the pressure required, and partly because our nature would escape from the restraint which faith entails -- it wishes to get into circumstances where faith will not be required. Thus David, after this great moral victory over Saul, becomes a prey to his own feelings and fears (chapter 27), and. says in his heart, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of

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Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines", etc. This idea was in positive contradiction to the language he had so lately uttered to Saul. But how soon one forgets the convictions of faith when one confers with nature! Just before he had said, "So let my life be much set by in the eyes of the Lord, and let him deliver me out of all tribulation". But now he is so desponding that he expatriates himself from the Lord's inheritance. "And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath". We have seen that once before he had sought refuge with Achish, and was glad to retire from it in humiliation. Why does he go there again? He now practically exemplifies the most peculiar and necessary discipline that any one can be subjected to. Whatever be the first cause of our failure at our start, even though surmounted at the time, it is sure to beset us again, and. if we be not effectually delivered from it, in a more bitter and desperate form. This is necessary; for if that particular offspring of my nature still flourishes, surely divine discipline must be directed to the subdual of it; for if it be not summarily expelled, it is sure to betray itself again and again, and therefore when an exposure recurs (because it has not been thoroughly mortified), it is always met by a severer chastening. David ingratiates himself with Achish and obtains Ziklag from him. It is wonderful how the Lord allows His servants to work out their own devisings; but after they have been corrected and have seen the end of them, He advances them to greater and higher service, provided they have been in principle true to Him.

Deep as was David's failure here, I believe this was the case with him. We never hear that he worshipped false gods, or forgot that Israel was God's people. He deceived Achish and thus morally degraded himself, but he was true in principle to God, and when, his nature was subdued, he was delivered from his humiliating position into open and active service. Ziklag was the last touch of the master-hand

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that was preparing him for the throne, and must therefore be especially interesting to us. He goes there in unbelief, tarries for more than a year, ingratiates himself with Achish by false representations, and even essays to join him in battle against Israel, which act we must from his former course consider that the lords of the Philistines rightly interpreted; for however he could deceive, he never would have taken the sword against his own people, except with the intention to aid them eventually. This they foresee, and Achish is reluctantly obliged to decline his services and send him away. And now being delivered from this false and painful position by the Lord's indirect interpositions, discipline follows. While this duplicity has been going on judgment falls on Ziklag, and David and his company returned to find it burned with fire, and their wives, sons and daughters taken captive! We now know what David did not know at this distressing moment, that the same God who was then so sorely chastening him was preparing the kingdom for him; for the very same hour Saul was being slain on mount Gilboa, but David was not fit for the throne or for any such tidings, until he was chastened and brought into real dependence on God. The first and last step to the throne is dependence, and the only title for it which God owns; consequently, at Ziklag, David is more humbled and deserted than at any other period of his life; for not only was his own sorrow poignant on account of his great loss, but (as in the case of all such sorrows) the failure of his past course must have intensified his misery; and in addition to this, the greatest blow of all, his old and attached followers speak of stoning him. Such a moment he had never known before, and never knew again. His enemies (the Amalekites) had baffled him, and were beyond his reach; and what is more fretting to the man of might than to be circumvented without opportunity of avenging oneself? Truly he was under the arrows of the Almighty, and made to feel the chastening rod for having committed himself to so false a position as that outside the land or place of privilege.

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Human help or support there was none; on the contrary, danger and conspiracy surrounded him; God chastening him, his friends incensed against him, the enemy unreachable. But what was the result? "David encouraged himself in the Lord his God". It is deeply interesting now and again to turn to the Psalms and listen to the breathings of his heart in the varied circumstances, the narrative of which is given in the history of his life. We find that Psalm 56 was uttered in the distress of his soul, entailed by his wrong and humiliating sojourn in Gath; and whether or not it was at the period we are considering, it is an utterance fully expressive of what he must have passed through. Bereft of all human trust, he turns to God, though in the full consciousness of his own failures. "In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling?" It is a blessed thing to have received at any time a right knowledge of God; for if we have, when our failure is paramount, we shall then best know that God is our only resource, although His chastening be very sore, and we be forsaken and helpless. There is no fear for David now; he has "awakened", and he shall "have light". (See Ephesians 5:14.) "Bring hither the ephod", he says to Abiathar, the priest; for when the soul re-enters the path of faith, it is specially conscious of the necessity of acceptance; and now he has got into his old line of confidence, and doubtless with renewed energy. As at Keilah, he inquires of the Lord, "Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them?" And He answered him with peculiar assurance and encouragement, "Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake, and without fail recover all". Thus in a moment has the earnest soul recovered itself with God. "So David went, and the six hundred men that were with him"; but two hundred remained behind at the brook Besor from faintness. The path of faith always tests our strength, and every embarrassment

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only presents an opportunity for some greater display of the grace which is sustaining us. This contretemps gives rise to a "statute for Israel unto this day", and one fully characteristic of the grace which at the moment was blessing the pursuers.

David fails not; wise and gracious as well as strong (as the man walking according to God's counsel ever is), he can turn every incident to account. The almost famished Egyptian commands his attention; in any case he ought not to have neglected him, as we in our haste are too ready to do; and had he done so, he would have lost the proper clue to the desired relief. The recruited Egyptian guides David to the camp of his enemies, and he smote the whole troop, recovered all they had carried away, rescued his two wives and all; there was nothing lacking, David recovered all. And now, returning to the brook Besor, he exemplifies how a soul in the enjoyment of grace will know how to testify of that grace to others. He overrules the selfishness of the natural mind, and proclaims that divine principle: "As his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day". What a monument! What a commemoration of the last hours of David's rejection! and what a herald of the reign about to open! This ordinance of the victorious but uncrowned David (the position which our Lord now holds towards His people here) has a very momentous meaning, and embodies the principle now true of the church, even that each member in the body is dependent on the others for loss or for gain. It is new and wonderful, but worthy of the hour in which it was enacted. It is the Holy Ghost who unites in one body the members of the absent Lord, and makes them dependent on and inseparable one from the other. May we apply our hearts unto wisdom, that we may understand the deep things of God.

We have now reached the completion of the third course or circle of David's eventful life, and the close of that

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wonderful process of preparation which was necessary to qualify him for that high and glorious position for which he was so early destined and anointed; and we enter on another chapter in his history. The period of his rejection is over, and the new and glorious position which he is to occupy is being prepared for Him. That course of education which belonged to him as a fugitive and a sufferer, though rightful heir to the throne, closed at Ziklag, the scene to him of bitter sorrow and retribution, but of wondrous deliverance and restoration; and it is there, after having returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and having sent presents of the spoil of the "enemies of the Lord" to all places where he and his men were wont to resort, that the momentous tidings of the death of him whose throne he was to fill reaches him! What a remarkable coincidence! The charred ruins of Ziklag testified of the chastening which he had so deeply tasted and needed, while the presents which he was sending hither and thither, proclaimed the compensation and victory which had been vouchsafed to him. The contrast between the two testimonies is striking, the one notifying his own failure, the other still more generally and positively the goodness and favour of the Lord.

Right royally he was acting before he knew that he was actually king, or that the one who had barred his way to the throne had fallen on mount Gilboa. It is in keeping with God's ways that we should be in the spirit of our position when the time arrives for us to be owned in it, for the condition indicates the position; nay, the condition is ever unsatisfied until it reaches the position which suits it. The preparation of his heart is from the Lord, and we may rest assured that unless we are acting in the spirit of any desired position, we are not fit for it, and if we were set in it, we should be found unsuited to it. It is true we do not, and need not know how to act in the promised position until we are actually set therein, for faith's activities are for the present; but we may and should act in the spirit of the better position, and if our tastes for it are not

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gratified, the divine life is not satisfied; for it seeks its own region, and the tastes are the evidences of its vitality.

David was two days at Ziklag after his return from conquest before he heard of the death of Saul; for it was on the "third day" that the event and the manner of it is related to him by an Amalekite, who says, "I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord". But how does David receive these tidings and trophies? He "took hold on his clothes, and rent them ... and they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even"; and as for the bearer of them, he ordered his immediate execution. When judgment from God falls on His people, however deserved by them and predicted by the faithful, yet to the godly it is always solemn and affecting; and at such a moment no true David could remember the benefit that might accrue to himself from the event. The soul enters rather into the cause of the divine interposition; and the sense that God is acting silences self. How many and great were the revolutions which had exercised David's spirit those three days! Re had not only known the Lord's peculiar mercy to himself, but now he is made cognisant of this singular judgment, which occupies him so much in its connection with Israel, that for the moment he overlooks its importance to himself. Moreover, he could not suffer the Amalekite, who had reported the news, to live; for he was proving his title to the throne in his unflinching war with the Amalekites, in contrast to Saul, who had lost the kingdom by sparing Amalek (1 Samuel 15), and who now, by God's unerring retribution, is slain, and stripped of his kingly ornaments by an Amalekite! It was consistent, therefore, with God's way and will that David should establish his title by relentless vengeance on Amalek, and doubtless the Lord in His mercy exasperated him thus ere he reached the throne against the enemy of Israel by

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allowing the Amalekites to wound him where he was most sensitive. Blessed God! this is often Thy gracious way!

To the godly soul there is a fresh demand for counsel from God as each difficulty or opposition disappears, because he requires to ascertain how he may use the advantage aright, and there is often much lost for want of judgment. David now "enquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the Lord said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron", 2 Samuel 2:1. What simple, happy and interesting dependence! In what a different spirit he leaves Ziklag to that in which he entered it! What blessed fruition of God's discipline does he now enjoy going up into Hebron, led and sustained by the plain word of God! What power and simplicity characterise the walk of the man upheld thereby! David goes to Hebron, and "his men that were with him ... every man with his household". When faith in God is unhindered by nature, it embraces all that concerns me. I learn that God's interest in me must embrace my interests, or it would not be perfect consideration for me.

If a hair of my head cannot fall to the ground without Him, it is plain to faith that everything which concerns me is now within the circle of His hand. David, therefore, acting in this mind, brought up all his men, and every man his household. Nothing less would suit that faith in the word of God which had said to him, "Go up unto Hebron". When we begin in faith and dependence, every circumstance will establish not only the faith but the wisdom of our course; hence we find, in verse 4, that the "men of Judah came and anointed David king over the house of Judah". But though now set up in royal dignity, it was a position very far short of that for which he was destined and anointed by Samuel. Seven years and six months must still elapse before the whole nation acknowledge him as king. (verse 11.) And there was still to be "long war between the house of Saul and the house of David", though the latter should wax stronger and stronger. By

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what slow and measured steps the Lord leads His servants to their appointed place; it is, doubtless, never fully attained in this world, for though Paul can say, "This one thing I do", yet he must own that he has not attained that distinct place which he will occupy in glory; though the more he presses thereto, the more he fulfils his calling and service. How often is God's servant, like David, set in Hebron for a season; that is, only in partial possession of his appointed service, and how necessary this is in order to develop in him the suitable qualities. We may shrink from antagonism, but if there were none we should never feel the virtues of the grace supplied to us by the Holy Ghost. Many opportunities are now afforded to David for proving his qualifications for the office he desired, which he never would have had, or probably would never have availed himself of, if he had been at once enthroned king of all Israel.

His first act is to send a message of approval and encouragement to the men of Jabesh-Gilead, who had owned Saul. This was great grace, and the true dignity of a man of might, capacitated to lead and rule. The throne is established by righteousness, and the one who cannot render impartial justice cannot divinely rule. A Christian walks in righteousness and charity, rendering its due to every claim fairly and fully; and supplying to the impotent and suffering what they require. Even to an enemy David is able to render deserved praise, and this establishes his moral weight; and though he has also his disappointments and mistakes, he waxes stronger and stronger, and is all the while learning his true course before God.

Abner, in anger, deserts the house of Saul (chapter 3: 9, etc.), and espouses David, who consents to make a league with him on condition that he should deliver to him his wife, Michal, Saul's daughter. It is difficult to understand his motive for this demand. It may have been regard for Michal, for he owed his life to her, or it may have been mixed with policy, as evidencing his alliance with Saul;

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but whatever it was, the act was not attended with honour to either of them. If the surrender of Michal was gratifying to David's nature, the base assassination of Abner by Joab must have been a bitter reverse. Just as he might have reckoned on this man of valour as the appointed instrument to bring about the desired consummation he is cut down. Deep discipline was there in this sad occurrence. No wonder he should mourn for Abner. In the mourning he realised his own dependent state, and must have felt what a terrible blot it was on his government that the sword of his own captain should thus gainsay his righteous rule. But he must learn not to build his hopes on any; and even this, the Lord in the end turned to his advantage; for the people took note of his great grief, and it pleased them. What man would pronounce a great misfortune God can convert into the opposite for His servant. David might justly say, "I am this day weak, though anointed king". But this humbling is only preparatory to exaltation. We must feel and know our need of God before He can openly help us.

This event, which seemed to human vision so great a misfortune, eventually weakened the house of Saul in a remarkable way (chapter 4: 1), for Ishbosheth is slain by two of his captains, and David's rival removed without any reflection on David, which he could not have escaped had it been brought about by the sword of Abner. Oh! if we would but trust the Lord, we should find that what we, in our feeble judgment, regard as against us, He has ordered as entirely for us. David humbled before God, and, waiting on Him, deals with this treachery as became him; righteously visiting with death the perpetrators of the murder, and accepting the result as from the Lord, for the last obstacle to his acknowledgment as king of Israel was now gone; for we read (chapter 5: 1), "Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron ... and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel". In 1 Chronicles 12:38 it is detailed to us the character and

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quality of the multitude of Israel, who gathered to Hebron to acknowledge him as king: "All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king".

Thus, after an interval of about twenty-one years, has this much disciplined servant attained his appointed place. Slow had been the steps by which he had reached it; varied and deep the education which had prepared him for it, not the least part of which was the last seven years and a-half, during which he was only in partial possession; and now, having attained it, we have to trace how he fills it, always remembering that the instruction still goes on, though in different circumstances.

The first recorded act of David after his elevation to the throne is his attempt to bring back the ark of God; a true and godly desire -- for to render unto the Lord the first-fruits of our increase is the natural action of the soul which is consciously receiving from Him; but how often we mar in execution our best intentions, on account of the influence of our associations; and our associations are always in keeping with our practical state. David, in his spirit, desires to see the ark of God restored, "for it had not been inquired at in the days of Saul". But he, doubtless, much engrossed at this time with the heads of the army, as the means by which he had reached the throne, consults with them about bringing back the ark, instead of with the Lord; the consequence of which is, as is ever the case, a human devised plan is decided on; a cart drawn by kine is appointed to carry it, instead of the Levites, which was the divine way. What could result from such an arrangement but chastening in the display of God's holiness? Uzzah is slain; a great check to David, and reminding him that the Lord was near, and that if he would do the works of God he must do them in the mind of God. But he does not seem to have apprehended this at once. We read he was displeased and was afraid of the Lord, and said, "How shall the ark of the Lord come to

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me?" And, moreover, he left it in the house of Obed-edom, the Gittite, for three months.

Now, in 1 Chronicles 13 - 16, we read of two conflicts with the Philistines by David, between his first essay as to bringing up the ark and the final accomplishment of it. Whether they actually took place at that period, or as related in Samuel, may be a question; but the Spirit of God always gives us the moral order of events in Chronicles, and I fully believe that it is thus related in the latter, with the intent to shew us that the lesson which David needed to be taught then, and in need of which he failed the first time, was that so far from borrowing any of the devices of the Philistines, he was to have nothing to do with them, except to overcome them. If he had truly and deeply apprehended the nature and extent of the power of God, as at Baal-perazim, where God "broke in upon his enemies like the breaking forth of waters", in answer to the simple and blessed dependence with which he inquired of Him, and waited on Him, step by step, he would have been saved from the sorrow and humiliation of Perez-uzzah. Even after obtaining signal victories over the world how often, alas! do we introduce some worldly element into our worship, which will neutralise our truest purposes. If I do not realise the entire setting aside of the world and of any association with it, I am sure to retain some idea borrowed from it, which contravenes the truth and grace of God. In the first of these conflicts David is taught what personal victory the Lord vouchsafes to His servant when he trusts Him; for there he had inquired of the Lord in as full dependence as when he was a refugee in the wilderness of Maon; and dependence yields all the more savour when our position is such as might seem, humanly speaking, to place us above it. God had promised that He would deliver the Philistines into his hand; and so great was their defeat that David said, "God hath broken in upon mine enemies by mine hand like the breaking forth of waters: therefore he called the name of the place Baal-perazim".

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Now it is one thing for me to feel and know that I am personally victorious over the world (I can have no rest until I do), and quite another thing to know that it is God that setteth me on my high places; that is, that He is subduing my enemies for me; and still further, that it is when the sound of God is heard that I bestir myself and go forth to conflict (1 Chronicles 14:15); for then I know that He has "gone forth before me to smite the host of the Philistines".

These were the blessed experiences through which the Lord was leading His servant, enough surely to direct him from stooping to adopt the modes and plans of the Philistines, without consulting the Lord and His word!

At the end of three months, however, David having been warned, chastened, and most graciously instructed, and hearing of the blessing vouchsafed to the house of Obed-edom from the presence of Him whose holiness had so lately broken forth in judgment to wither up the presumption of nature, prepares to bring up the ark of God to the city of David with gladness, and he now makes an announcement which virtually is a confession of his own mistake, even that "None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever". The details of this interesting event are given to us in 1 Chronicles 15 and 16, and we shall do well to note the spirit of David on the occasion. He acts as both priest and king, and orders and appoints everything, and is, moreover, himself clothed with an ephod and robe of fine linen, and dances before the Lord with all his might. In fact his whole course and way is a practical expression of Psalm 132, which was the utterance of his heart at the moment. How different to his first attempt to bring up the ark was this, in power, testimony, and joy of heart! How imposingly expressive is the gladness of the heart when engaged with the Lord, and how indifferent to all carnal judgment! This must have been the happiest moment in David's life, as also the most honoured one, when he said, "Arise, O

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Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength". And then it was that he "first delivered a psalm to thank the Lord", etc. (chapter 16: 7 - 36.)

What a bright and blessed moment, after all his sorrows and discipline! What fulness of joy does his occupation with the Lord give him, and with what divine skill does he direct all the details of the Levitical service! There is no jar in the scene, save that of the daughter of Saul, whose spirit out of tune with the whole scene can have no sympathy with him, nor can she understand it, for she despises David in her heart. Thus in this bright hour he suffers from unsuited association. And how often is this the case! Many a one who passes acceptably in the muddy light of profession soon betrays himself, if placed in the bright light of God's presence. But if this were a cloud in the fair sky which now overshadowed David, it bore a blessing and deliverance for him too; for this unequal association was to fetter him no more. The line of separation is from henceforth drawn between them for ever. In the wilderness God had given him an Abigail, a kindred spirit to share his rejection; and now, as he conducts the ark of God to its rest in mount Zion, in the boundless joy of a soul rejoicing in the Lord's exaltation, he breaks the last link of his alliance with the world; his holy joy alienates the heart of her whose innate worldliness of spirit is hereby disclosed.

It seems likely that it was when David returned to bless his house (1 Chronicles 16:43) that he uttered Psalm 30. He could then say, "Thou hast turned from me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness". He had now risen to the height of prosperity and could say, "I shall never be moved". His soul was simply enjoying all at the hands of the Lord; and here he exclaims, "I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me".

In this spirit it was that David sat in his house (1 Chronicles 17) and said to Nathan the prophet, "Lo, I dwell in an

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house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains". This was a very natural and godly feeling, while enjoying a vivid sense of the Lord's loving-kindness, and as such Nathan commends it. Nevertheless, it was not the Lord's mind, and we are thus taught that the truest and most apparently spiritual desire and intention is not to be trusted or acted on without seeking direct counsel of the Lord.

"That same night the word of the Lord came unto Nathan, saying, Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in", etc.; and he goes on to say how the Lord will build him a house! When our cup is filled, we are liable, in the elation which the sense of God's favour has secured for us, to propose services with an honest purpose for which we may be unqualified. The word of God will always define our proper place to us, as it here does to David, while it is accompanied by an enlarged and wonderful unfolding of the Lord's interest in him personally. It is well to have great zeal for His glory, but the word which corrects us in our inopportune designs is sure to unfold to us the measureless nature of His own interest in us. This David learns here, and he can now go and sit before the Lord in full communion with His mind, and in that self-abasement which His presence alone can produce. However we may praise Him for His gifts and receive them from Him, yet while we sit in the "house of cedars", we may mistake our due calling and place; but when we "sit before the Lord", listening to the unfoldings of His mind and interest for us, all things fall into their right place, and we exclaim, "Who am I that thou hast brought me hitherto?"

After this (chapter 18) David subdues the Philistines, smites Moab, and the king of Zobah unto Hamath, as he went to establish his dominion by the river Euphrates. The Lord preserves him wherever he goes: he puts garrisons into Edom, and the Edomites become his servants: the Syrians flee before Israel, neither would they help the children of Ammon any more. In short, the Lord

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vouchsafes to David in an unexampled way the full tide of prosperity. How does he bear it? It was a double prosperity that he had been blessed with -- spiritual and temporal; spiritual when he was led into communion with the mind and purposes of God, when, entering into God's infinite interest in himself, his imperfect ideas were lost in the boundlessness of God's promises and purpose; and temporal, in the magnitude of God's ways and gifts to him. Is he able to stand all this? Adversity tests the character, being a demand on the resources in ourselves. Prosperity tests the nature and our power of self-control. In adversity we ply all our strength and prove it too, in order to emerge from the difficulty. In prosperity there is opportunity for the indulgence of our natural propensities.

God had shewn David in a remarkable way how full and unsparingly He could open His hand to bless him; his prosperity was boundless; and in it an opportunity is offered to his nature, and he falls! (2 Samuel 11).

How eagerly the poor heart runs after prosperity and mercies, never remembering that, to such as we are, there is no new mercy without a new order of trial to our flesh; and the more we are at ease in natural things, the greater the opportunity for our nature to expose itself. The Lord knows that the spring of evil is there; and though we are so much more humbled when the evil is exposed, yet the exposure being needed, in order to lay bare the spring to ourselves, we are really no worse in God's judgment, because He already knew what we were capable of.

David, truly convicted of his sin, is now, as we learn from Psalm 51, bowed into a "humble and contrite spirit", in the sense of his own corruption. He had before shewn the humble and contrite spirit, resulting from the exposure of the weakness of his nature: now he feels it in the depth of degradation, through the wickedness of his nature; and in this utterance he gives expression to the heart of Israel in the latter day, when they shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and be humbled before Him in the sense of their "blood-guiltiness". Painful as

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is the moment both to David and to Israel, yet it is that in which God's salvation is most fully revealed to both. For the lower I am sunk, the better I can appreciate what it is to be delivered.

David, through God's wondrous grace, enters from this on a deeper knowledge of salvation. He learns what God is for the sinner, while also learning that sin against our neighbour must meet with temporal judgment. God is just, ruling among men; and the man who sins against others must be judged openly. Many sin only against God, and then their flesh is judged, as between themselves and God; but when the sin affects other men, then the judgment must be public.

David's child dies; 2 Samuel 12:18. But soon the blessed fruits of discipline reappear in his soul; he is again the dependent and subject one. While the child lived, he besought the Lord for it; and so far from despising the chastening of the Lord, he evidently felt it most intensely; but when it is dead, he accepts God's will in perfect submission. "He arose from the earth, and washed and anointed himself". It had been a moment of thickest darkness to him for there had been no communication from the Lord to alleviate the sorrow of his heart. And I believe this is generally the case when we are suffering judicially. It is necessary that we should feel the righteous government of God; and while passing under it for our sin, we are not conscious of either light or converse; but, nevertheless, we may emerge from it with renewed strength and power, as did David; for we next find him warring against Rabbah (verse 29) in the full tide of victory. He resumes the right path, and honour and blessing are again vouchsafed to him; and God shews him that, however inflexible He be in righteousness, His love and interest in him are unchanged.

But, nevertheless, the word of the Lord spoken by Nathan (chapter 12: 10, 11) had passed: "The sword shall never depart from thy house". And though David's soul had been so far chastened in the proximate fruit of

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his sin, because he had not judged himself, and was also so far restored, still he must further suffer judicially from God's righteous government to humble him among men.

This brings us to that period in his history when he was afflicted and humbled by the evil of his own children. In what sorer way could a man be made to feel the evil of his nature and publicly humbled? David, as king, ought to have been the example of righteousness, for by righteousness was the throne to have been established; and if the head fail, the leaven must spread, and increase throughout the system. Defects in a parent's self-government will be extravagantly betrayed in his children; and from their infancy he is taught in a painful way what needs repression and crucifixion in his own nature, though he may never have committed sins actually similar to those of his children; but children are his continuation on earth, and portray his nature.

According to the law, I judge that Amnon ought to have suffered death for his sin; chapter 13: 4. David fails to be "just, ruling in the fear of God". And judgment overtakes Amnon by the hand of his brother Absalom; who, thus guilty of murder, flies from the kingdom; but David, yielding to the stratagem of Joab, is weak enough, not only to allow him to return, but after a time to reinstate him in favour; chapter 14. This weakness and injustice before very long bears the bitterest fruits; for, when we unrighteously spare another in order to indulge our own feelings, we always expose ourselves to the evil of the nature which we should have controlled and condemned. The very next verse to the one which tells us of Absalom's reception by his father, announces to us his parricidal rebellion; chapter 15: 1.

David must now flee. Sad and humiliating is it to see him, after being raised to such honours and high estate, descending from the throne and retreating from Jerusalem before the wave of tumult and rebellion, evoked and fomented by his own son. He had passed through another

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moment similar, yet different to this. The suffering of Ziklag was retributive also, but it was more from man on every side. Here it is the loss of Jerusalem, the mount Zion that he loved, his position and everything, and by the hand, not of the Amalekite, but of his own son.

But he surrenders it all, leaving it to the issue, "If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation", etc. "And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and. he went barefoot". How the discipline of that hour entered into his soul Psalm 3 tells us: "Many there be that say of my soul, There is no help for him in God". But what then? "I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill". The true value of sorrow and trial is to lead the soul into simple reliance on God. David had failed in this; and as he had neglected his appointed work, and thus exposed himself to temptation and sin (chapter 11: 1), so now he is subjected to a war with his own son. When we shrink from the services we are called to, not only does trouble befall us, but like Jonah, we shew that we need to be subjected to deeper exercise of soul in order to render us fit for our calling. But in this unnatural and bitter war the suffering servant renews his confidence in God; and from the moment when he "laid him down and slept" (which I am induced to place where it is said, "And the king [David], and all the people that were with him, came weary, and refreshed themselves there", 2 Samuel 16:14), all things went favourably. He says, "I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about". There is no fear of man, however great he be, or however near us, when we are able to sleep because of reliance on God. Ahithophel's counsel is despised, and David returns to Jerusalem. But Absalom must fall!

David has other sorrows; his history pre-eminently teaches us how continually the exercise of his soul must

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be kept up. When delivered from Sheba (chapter 20) there is a famine in the land for three successive years (chapter 21) which again leads him to the Lord in inquiry, and He tells him that it is for Saul and his bloody house, the last of whom is thus extirpated. After this (verse 15) David had one more war with the Philistines. In the end of his course, even as at the beginning, he encounters a giant -- not the same giant: for what we once really conquer we have no need to reconquer. But other giants arise, which test our strength, and we are made to feel that what is easy to faith is critical to one walking without its exercise; and that if our dependence on God be less, our ability is less, whatever may be the extent of our experience and attainment. David here "waxed faint"; and when the giant "thought to have slain him", Abishai succoured him and smote the Philistine. "Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel".

But another and peculiar discipline is necessary for this already much-disciplined servant, and that at the close of his life. Years before he had desired to build a house for the Lord -- a desire good in itself, but which he was unprepared to carry out: therefore the Lord; while at the same time greatly blessing David in his own soul by the revelation of His personal interest in him, refused to sanction the execution of it. But it is only at the end of his life that he is shewn how ill-prepared he was to build it, for he did not even know where it was to be built: and this he must learn as the fruit of God's discipline for his own failure. The site of the temple is revealed to him in its moral value and suitability; so that, his own soul having learned the nature of that grace which was the basis of it, his last hours might be spent in preparing for its erection.

When David had rest from all his enemies, and naturally felt his exalted position, Satan takes advantage of him and tempts him to number the people in order to exult in the greatness of his resources; chapter 24. It was God who had

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raised him to his present position, but the heart of man will count up God's gifts in order to be independent of the Giver. He owed everything that he had to God in so distinct and wonderful a way that it betrayed the working of nature, in a very open and shameless manner, that he should at the end of his course so publicly shew his desire to be accounted great because of the number of the people, rather than because of the help of God who had so supported him. For this the Lord visits him, but permits him to choose one of three afflictions. When we err, there is need of discipline to correct the flesh; but if our error be a private one, then the chastening is private, but none the less painful; but if public, the chastening must be public, for God shews His justice to all His creatures. David is restored in soul, for he chooses the affliction which is most immediately from the hand of the Lord, thereby shewing that his dependence was revived.

And now a new and wondrous field of blessing opens to him. The most touching evidence of how God's grace flows from His love is that when restoration is complete there is always a fuller revelation of the fulness of our acceptance with Him. When the sword of the Lord was stretched over Jerusalem, and David was cast on God with a true sense of his evil, God declares His mercy; and the prophet Gad is directed to tell David to go up and set up an altar in the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. "And the Lord answered David there, and the plague was stayed". But still more. Having found at this altar acceptance with God, while afraid to go to the altar of burnt-offering in the high place of Gibeon, which belonged to the first tabernacle under the law, he learns for the first time the site of the temple. Long before he had essayed to erect this temple -- this type of the Lord Jesus Christ; but never till now was he humbled enough to be taught of God the right place for it; nor did he, like many of us, know those exercises of soul, and lessons of grace which he should submit to, ere he knew the most preliminary part of the work which he had conceived himself equal for. It is

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good to desire high and great services, but we must be prepared to reach them in God's way. If James and John desire to sit, the one on the right hand and the other, on the left, in Christ's kingdom, are they prepared to drink of the cup He drank of, and be baptised with the baptism with which He was baptised? David has now acquired a sense of God's grace unknown to him before, and which qualified him for determining the site of that building which would set forth Christ as the One who in Himself declared that mercy rejoiceth over judgment; and therefore David said, "This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt-offering for Israel"; and there the temple was erected.

It now only remains for us to notice the close of David's life. It appears that after the discipline and instruction of mount Moriah, he applied himself assiduously to prepare the materials for the temple; 1 Chronicles 22. And. more than this (chapter 23), having made Solomon his son king over Israel, he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and Levites, and divided. them into their courses; chapters 23 - 33. Beautiful and blessed conclusion to his eventful and remarkable life, which his address to all the chiefs of Israel properly terminates as to testimony! Here is the end of his public course; but what were his private musings? In his "last words" (2 Samuel 23) he gives utterance to them. There we learn his personal feelings and judgment about everything -- God's grace to him -- his own imperfect condition -- the hope of his soul and the object it rested on; and, finally, his estimate of the world, in its antagonism to God, expressed by the "men of Belial".

With the remembrance of these deeply interesting and experimental "last words" on our souls, and amid the circle of faithful and valiant ones who had accompanied him, and who are not to be forgotten (verse 8, etc.), we may close the history of this "man after God's own heart", while we sing aloud, "Great and wonderful are thy works, O Lord, and that my soul knoweth right well".

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The place which Elijah occupied in God's dealings with His people lends a peculiar interest to his character and history. The nature of the services required of him during that remarkable time necessarily developed the quality of the grace that was in him, and at the same time subjected him to the discipline which was to mould and fashion him for those services. God, in His own counsel, appoints the servant who is suited to carry out His will; but though that servant be endowed by Him with power to do so, yet unless he be controlled and disciplined by the hand of God, he will continually fall into the devisings of his nature, no matter how godly and divine may be his intent. For we greatly err if we think that having the divine thought is all that is necessary as to our service; we must truly and efficiently be expressive of the thought; and this subjects us, as servants of God, to discipline which we often cannot understand. Discipline for known faults or shortcomings we can easily comprehend; but when it is that peculiar order of training which fits a man to be God's instrument and witness, we can no more understand it than the plants of the earth can understand why they must pass through all the vicissitudes of winter in order to bring forth a more abundant harvest.

The first notice we have of Elijah is in 1 Kings 17, when he appears as a herald of judgment to Ahab. But though his public career began here, it was by no means the beginning of his private exercises, for we learn from James 5:17, that the judgment here so confidently announced was granted in direct answer to his prayer. "As the Lord liveth", says Elijah, "before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word". And why had he prayed for this? Ahab's wickedness had, in the sight of the Lord, surpassed all who had preceded him. He had married Jezebel, the daughter of the King of the Zidonians, and had reared up an altar to

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Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. Elijah, "a man of like passions with us", but a righteous man, and one who was dependent on God, could not witness these abominations in the midst of God's people with indifference; and he earnestly entreats that God would thus speak to the nation in judgment, and vindicate His own name. His trust was in God, and he looked to Him to correct His people, and to lead them into that dependence which he himself had learnt. Suspension of usual mercies was the way of all others to effect this: the loss of dew and rain for three years and a half was fitted to make them remember the source from which their blessings flowed.

The deprivation of natural mercies by superhuman means has always the effect of impressing man with a sense that he must look to the Creator. The course of nature has been suspended by a power unknown to him; and though, while he enjoyed the usual blessings, he little thought of God, when they are suspended, he is made to feel that he has no remedy but in appealing to Him who heretofore he had disobeyed and abandoned. Elijah, grieved and oppressed by the apostasy of Israel, finds relief for his heart in prayer, and thus obtains from God the remedy for recalling His people, and Ahab, their king, to a sense of owing every mercy they had to the hand of God. What a striking and interesting light is this in which his history opens to our view!

Having prayed in secret, he comes forth for the first time to declare the result of it, and is thus a blessed and prepared witness for such evil and disastrous times and a witness, too (as the Holy Ghost, ages afterwards, testified), that every soul thus disciplined to wait on God in any emergency will prove that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much". With what dignity and power does the man taught of God stand forth to testify against the corruptions of his day, as his first meeting with Ahab testifies! (chapter 17: 1). How instructive to see a lone and hitherto obscure man rise up in the power of

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God and tell the king of Israel, Thus saith the Lord, "There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word!" Elijah takes the place of precedence which Ahab had forfeited; for Israel's king ought to have been God's most distinguished servant; but he had grievously departed from God's way, and the Lord now sends His own servant, disciplined in secret, to deliver a message and a testimony which asserted His supreme control over everything. The rain, on which the fruits of the earth depended, should not fall but according to His servant's word.

And now, having delivered his message on behalf of God, this same servant is to be dealt with individually. "Get thee hence", says the Lord, "and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith.... And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there". He is not to be outside the afflictions and judgments with which God visits his people; but he is, through dependence on God, to be above them. So is it with every true servant; so was it with Elijah. The period, which is one of unmitigated affliction to the wilful, becomes a peculiarly profitable season to the man of faith. If his prayer has been signally answered, he must learn that for that very reason he must live more in dependence than ever; and also, that the afflictions which he had prayed for must fall on him too, unless he adheres strictly to the path of faith.

Very often when our petitions are graciously answered, we are less careful to retain the place of dependence, whereas the very benefit we have received should make us the more dependent. It is faith in God which sets His servant above the afflictions of God's people, and not any set of circumstances especially ordered for him. Elijah must "hide"; but, like the blessed One whom he foreshadowed, he is to linger in Israel to the very last, though hidden and unknown, for it is within the precincts of the land that God first provides for him. With His own hand, as it were, He feeds and nourishes him; the ravens

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brought him bread and flesh in the morning and in the evening; birds, so voracious that they neglect to feed their offspring, are transformed by God into ministers for His servant's need; "and he drank of the brook" Cherith.

But after a while he is made to feel still more keenly the dearth and parching drought of Israel; "the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land"; he was sensibly to feel the sufferings of God's people, even though they had not been incurred by wilfulness of his own, but at the same time he was to reckon on God and say, "The Lord is my helper". This was our blessed Lord's experience, only in the perfection which always characterised Him; and to this very scene He refers, when in Luke 4. He felt His rejection by Israel, and how their hearts were closed towards Himself; and He makes use of it to illustrate to His audience that He was not without resource. If acceptance failed Him in Israel, the same blessed God who had provided a Gentile widow to be the hostess of Elijah would provide reception for the Lord of the earth in the hearts of the desolate Gentiles outside Israel.

Elijah having been taught to wait on the Lord for daily support in the land of promise, is now to hear the word, "Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee". This was a new line of discipline, and service is therein opened to him. He, an Israelite, has to leave the land of promise to dwell with a Gentile widow, and be supported by her. The Lord, during His rejection by Israel, dwells, in one sense, with the Gentile; and blessed it is to see that every true servant is to be led by a path in one way similar to His. Elijah obeys; and, like Him, he there sets forth the wondrous history of God's grace to man. At the gate he met the widow. When faith simply acts on the word of God we find the right thing in the right place. He might have passed by the widow who was to support him, because she was poor, and have sought one who was better off; but his eye was fixed on God, and nothing daunted by the extremity

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of her poverty, he, without questioning, says to her, "Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink". A soul led of God always, I may say, feels its way; it does not doubt its way, but at first it only asks for the least, and then is emboldened to proceed.

So here, with Elijah, when he found that she willingly discontinued her own work, forgetting the claims her necessity had on her, he is encouraged to ask more, and becomes assured, too, that this is the widow to whom God has sent him. She was willing to share with him all she could, but when the prophet asks her for what she had not, she is compelled to disclose the full tale of her poverty; and then it is that Elijah rises up in all the greatness of Him whose servant he was. How bright is that moment to the soul which has been carefully threading its way, following the ray of divine light, clear to itself, but as yet shedding no light beyond, when it enters with full intelligence into the purpose of God!

Thus it was with Elijah. The word of the Lord had now reached him, and he declares to the widow, Thus saith the Lord, "The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth". Forthwith he takes up his abode in her house; and for a full year is supported in this remarkable way by the Lord. We often fail to receive the word of God, because we are not where it can reach us; that is, we do not advance to the point where the Lord can use us to set forth His name; but when we do, we are able to declare it in full power; and not only so, but we are sustained in the enjoyment of the blessing into which it has introduced us. Must it not have been enjoyment to Elijah to learn day by day how God could sustain him in that poor, desolate home? Must not the bread and oil, which he ate there day by day, have been sweet, while his soul realised that it came directly from the hand of God? for I do not believe that there was one grain of meal more in the barrel at the end of the "many days" than there was at the beginning.

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But he was not to leave that roof without entering on another line of discipline. The widow's son dies, and Elijah, though not without resource, passes through deep exercises of soul before he appropriates the grace that is in God to meet the need. (verses 17 - 24.) But how fully is that need met! What blessed and momentous revelations were vouchsafed to Elijah in that widow's house, comprising in type the full range of God's blessing to man which was hereafter to be fully accomplished by the Son of God. He learned how God could preserve from death, how He could meet distress on the earth and avert evil; in a word, he learned the range of all temporal blessing known or enjoyed on the earth.

Bat more than this, he is conducted into a deeper mystery, even that of resurrection from the dead; he had seen death and its terrors arrested; but now being brought in contact with the depth of sorrow (for a widow losing her only son, her last link to earth, is the most penetrating illustration of human sorrow and bereavement), he is used of God to display His power and grace in overcoming death, and introducing life anew: and thus in a pre-eminent way he is educated in the mightiest work of God. The exercises of his soul at this time, because of death charged on himself by the sorrowing widow (verse 18), and the experiences of his soul as to the power of God in giving life from the dead, must have been peculiar and wonderful: and very grateful must have been the testimony of the widow after the resurrection of her son, "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth". God was honoured and His servant vindicated in the great work of resurrection.

Elijah having learned these deep lessons of the grace and power of God in the house of the Gentile -- all of them foreshadowing the glorious disclosures of that same grace and power which have been made to the Gentile during the day of Israel's drought, is now directed to go and shew himself to Ahab and testify that the Lord "will send rain upon the earth", chapter 18: 1. He had been hidden from

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Israel and Ahab had sought him in every nation and kingdom in vain; but now, at this juncture, when the king had arranged with Obadiah to divide the land in search of grass, he comes forth to present himself.

His first meeting is with Obadiah. The faithful remnant is ever the foremost to recognise the prophet of God; and though the faith of the remnant may waver, it is finally reassured and able to announce to the ungodly one the approach of him in whose hand was the blessing. Ahab, on encountering Elijah, charges him thus: "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" on which Elijah denounces the king and his father's house as the guilty cause. The man who has learned grace, and comes before the ungodly as the witness and minister of it, can give a strength and point to his denunciations which the man of law never could give. The one comes to rectify and repair every defect which he may expose, the other exposes with the feeling that he has no remedy for what he deprecates.

The prophets of Baal are now challenged to open competition with the Lord of hosts, and the most glorious moment in any servant's life is Elijah's when he stands forth alone to maintain the truth of God against all the assumption of pretenders. He proposes a test and God answers by fire. Let me say in passing that the highest evidence of God, and of His truth, is in the acceptance which He accords to the soul, which is received by Him on the ground of atonement. This is figuratively expressed here by the fire of God consuming the sacrifice. The accepted soul has the sense that while God receives, He does so in all the strength and terribleness of His holiness; so that the reception is not merely in grace but established in the stern holiness of His nature, which assures the soul that while He receives it as a sinner, He has pure and holy ground for doing so; and thus not only is the acceptance known to be divine, but its perpetuity and perfectness is guaranteed. And the soul who knows acceptance has a sense of the holiness of Him who accepts.

What a season of strength and education was this to

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Elijah when, confounding the pretenders of his day by one simple test, a test well understood by the people of God, he stood forth alone, valiant for God and waiting on Him! How his soul must have been enlarged while he held counsel with God, confronting the king and all the people of Israel! What calmness there is in dependence on God. He can patiently allow the pretenders to make full trial of all their powers, and when they have exhausted themselves and proved their inefficiency, he comes forward to repair the altar of the Lord, after the divine order. He is acting for God and with God. He will not only repair the altar, but he will show how bountifully God can display His power to His forgetful people. What deep and happy conceptions of God Elijah must have had when he ministered thus for Him! He had so learned God at Cherith and Sarepta that he is prepared for these public demonstrations and can enter on them with calmness and dignity.

And now the people having acknowledged their evil and again turned to the Lord, and Elijah having vindicated the truth by the execution of the pretenders, the judgment will be removed. The people were afflicted with drought in order that they might learn that the God whom they had slighted was alone the source and fountain of all their blessings. Having taught them this in His own gracious way, He removes the affliction, for God always removes chastisement when it has accomplished the purpose for which it was sent; and the servant, who has been faithful in maintaining the truth in the face of opponents, is proportionately used as a channel of God's mercies to His people. Elijah can now say to Ahab, "Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain". But what does he do himself? He goes to the top of Carmel, casts himself down upon the earth, and puts his face between his knees. The strength and power with which God furnishes His servant for public testimony is never a substitute for the deep exercise which the soul must pass through when made a channel of His grace. After a day's work of mighty power, the Lord spent His

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night in prayer, and communing with His Father. Active demonstrations of power must never supersede that close communion with God, which the real servant seeks and values all the more from having acted publicly for God, in order to know His mind and to follow out His purpose.

Elijah waits on God; and very instructive is it for us to note how a man who could call fire down from heaven must with intense earnestness wait on God for the manifestation of His mercies. Seven times does Elijah send his servant to see whether there was any indication of the coming and promised blessing. At length there was the very smallest token, "a little cloud ... like a man's hand". It is enough for faith. The prophet not only announces to Ahab that this insignificant token was the very blessing prayed and waited for, but "the hand of the Lord being upon him, he girded up his loins", and conducts Ahab safely to the gate of the city.

What a height of success had Elijah now reached through his faith and labour! Could anything, we might ask, henceforth move him after such signal honour and power being vouchsafed to him by God? One who knows little of the human heart might say it could not; but, alas! it is no rare page in the history of God's servants when discouragement sets in, from the very point of their greatest success. So was it with David. After a marked deliverance from Saul he exclaims, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul", and he retreats to Achish. So was it with Jonah. When his preaching produced such an effect that God's judgment was averted he was so angry that he would do nothing more. So is it with Elijah. After the signal instances and proofs he had had of God's power and present help, when he heard of Jezebel's intentions concerning him, he "went for his life, and came to Beersheba ... and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers", chapter 19: 4.

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What a contrast between a man of faith and a man of unbelief! Who would have thought that Elijah under the juniper tree was the Elijah of Carmel but a day or two before? How feeble and weak is the most notable of God's servants without faith! But such reverses and hours of darkness, however humbling, are as much a part of God's discipline for His servant as are his brightest moments, for then it is that he learns for himself the power of the Invisible. This was the secret of Moses' strength. He endured as seeing Him who is invisible. And when a soul has been much engaged with the external ways of God it needs all the more that peculiar, private and individual education which faith pre-eminently seeks and rests on.

Elijah leaves the land and wanders alone into the wilderness, seeking isolation apart from his fellow men. What a journey! trusting in none, attended by none. What living death, when a man feels only safe when entirely separated from his kind! Our blessed Lord could not "commit himself to man", because He knew what was in man; but Elijah shunned the company of men in fear and bitterness of soul, and sought his death at the hand of God. Blessed God! Thy compassions fail not; Thou wilt save the afflicted soul. "He remembereth our frame". The first relief which his weary spirit has is in unconsciousness: "he lay and slept under a juniper-tree". And there the angel touched him and said, "Arise and eat". "And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again". This was a deeper and a closer token of God's interest and care for him than the supply of the ravens or of the widow. The cake baken on the coals and the cruse of water at his head intimate to him how God provides for him; but the presence of the angel to point out and urge him to partake of them displays the Lord's own personal interest in him. Solitary as he was, he was not left alone or unattended. An angel is sent as his companion and servant; and a second time he touches him, after watching him doubtless as he slept, and, with increasing solicitude for him, says, "Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee".

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Whither was that journey to lead? To Horeb, the Mount of God.

I have no doubt that this double supply of food has a deeply mystical meaning, and illustrates to us the special ways in which the Lord sustains our souls preparatory to a season of deep exercise. Such a time, forty days in the wilderness typify, when the conscious link with things of human interest and support is suspended. Moses and our Lord went through this experience without the preparation accorded to Elijah; but the latter represents to us the way common to man. Supplied and strengthened at the outset, he went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights.

These forty days in the wilderness without food or human sustenance is the path that must be traversed by the soul that would learn God in His great reality, whether with regard to ourselves or His purposes on earth. At Horeb, the Mount of God, all things are naked and open; and Elijah has to do with God, and with God alone. These individual communications are opened on the part of the Lord by the searching question, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" He is then instructed to "Go forth" from the cave where he had retreated, and "stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by". Elijah's own true state is now brought out. The Lord is not in the whirlwind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire. These were the demonstrations of God; but for Elijah there was something deeper, holier, more personal; he learns that the still small voice of God is greater than all the outward demonstrations; a lesson which he needed much, for doubtless the wondrous scene at Carmel had unduly filled his vision at the expense of that personal link with God, which would have sustained him under subsequent disappointment.

To re-establish this link was the object of the interesting scene of the ministry of the angel under the juniper tree; and to lay bare his soul was the forty days' journey to Horeb, apart from the region of humanity, terminating in

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this blessed instruction, which brought God Himself so very nigh to him. Well might he wrap his face in his mantle and listen. And though he could not satisfactorily reply to the question, again repeated, "What doest thou here?" he is instructed to "Go, return", and execute the Lord's counsels. Wilful as he had been, now, brought to Horeb, the still small voice of God will unfold to him His mind and purposes: the wicked king was to be displaced, and the sword was to be drawn in Israel; but seven thousand souls, a faithful remnant, were still left to testify for God. This was to silence all Elijah's self-consequence: he had said, "I, only I, am left". But the Lord now shews him that He had seven thousand more witnesses, and, still further, that another prophet was to be anointed in his room. Great as had been his services, God's truth and power did not depend on him; but though his earthly testimony was to close, God was purposing a higher and more blessed portion for His servant, which, however, is not disclosed to him here, as far as we see. What wonderful education was all this! With what different ideas of God towards himself and towards man must he have departed from that sacred mount! Truly humbled he was, truly interested for God, truly linked to Him in his secret soul, and esteeming others better than himself.

The firstfruits of this instruction at Horeb are seen in his first act, namely, the call of Elisha; and to him, it appears, he committed the anointing of both Hazael and Jehu. (See 2 Kings 8, 9.) That he had profited by the discipline, his whole subsequent course evidences. In chapter 21: 17, etc., he encounters Ahab at Naboth's vineyard, and fearlessly denounces him, declaring the judgment of God against him and against Jezebel also. He is used by the blessed God to pronounce how grievous it is in His sight for any one, much more the eminent, to deprive one of His people of their divinely-appointed portion and inheritance, and how such an act will draw down the severest judgment: a fine service for one who

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had been learning through discipline what is the heart of God towards His people.

Elijah now fears not to be the exponent of this Magna Charta, namely, that God will not suffer any one to divert His gift from His own, without terrible and summary judgment. "He that defiles the temple of God, him will God defile". "I would that they were cut off who trouble you". "Woe unto him by whom the offence cometh". All these scriptures breathe the same principle. Ahab humbles himself, and God in His never-failing grace intimates to His servant a respite of the sentence he had pronounced on the king. Unlike Jonah, whose education being less complete, had rebelled, because the goodness of God thwarted his own predictions, Elijah is content, and fully accords with God's mind. He who has learned grace for himself can understand the ways of grace for others.

We now come to Elijah's last act of public testimony (2 Kings 1.), when he comes forth to rebuke the king of Israel for sending to Baal-zebub to inquire about his sickness, as if there were no God in Israel. The apostasy had become so fearful and complete that the existence of Jehovah is ignored, and, in the very centre of it, Elijah is to stand up to declare that death must vindicate the truth and existence of God when unbelief disowns and disallows all other evidence. "Thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die". If we do not believe that God is, what awaits us but death?

The mission of an Elijah is to announce this deeply solemn truth, and then to depart from the guilty scene. Thus did this honoured servant; he retired and sat on the top of a hill, unassailable and in the conscious power of moral separation and elevation. Is this the same man who had fled for his life into the wilderness? Captains and their hosts are as nothing to him now. The fire of God (though, as he learned at Horeb, it was not the voice to himself individually) is now at his disposal for the destruction of his enemies. Twice God thus miraculously

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certifies the authority of His servant, and then tells him to go down and complete his mission.

Apparently his life would be at their mercy, but in the power of God he was as unassailable in the king's court as on the top of the hill. Elijah obeys, and in the presence of the king reiterates God's solemn judgment, fearlessly vindicating the name of God in the very centre of the apostasy, where its power and evil were more dominant: a fit finale this to his blessed and honourable career of public service. When we transport ourselves into such a scene, while we may be filled with admiration of the man and of his work, we are the rather compelled to lay our hands on our hearts and say to our God, "How dost thou fashion thy servants for thine own glory and purposes!"

But though Elijah's public career is now over, his personal history as to earth has yet to close, and that in a flood of glory, far beyond anything that had been vouchsafed to him in his earthly service. "The Lord would now take him into heaven" -- to Himself, and in a way above and beyond the common lot of man. Like Enoch, he was to be "translated that he should not see death". Doubtless he knew what was about to happen; for the way in which he spends his last hours on earth is deeply significant and blessedly instructive, when we think what a prospect was before him in his exit from earth, and the nature of that exit. In these his last hours he connects himself personally, and by personal toil, with all those places in Israel most commemorative of God's ways with His people. Gilgal was where the reproach of Egypt was rolled off; Bethel where Jacob saw the ladder of God reaching from earth to heaven; Jericho where God would make His grace rise above all man's rebellion and evil; and lastly, Jordan, which was his point of exit, the crossing of which, while it recalled Israel's glorious entry into the land, told of death, the end of man in the flesh.

In prospect of being borne in a chariot of glory far away from those scenes of slighted mercy and apostasy,

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Elijah's heart, like that of his great prototype, is still true to God's interests on earth, and he must visit them once more, though at personal cost (for he must have travelled many miles to do so). The fact of his own portion being so glorious does not detach his heart from the interests and glory as to earthly testimony of that Lord for whom he had been so faithful a witness. As to himself, it was at the spot where in type the waters of death had closed over the old man in his corrupt and fallen nature, that the chariot of fire awaited him to bear him away to the glory; in that glory he has since appeared in close converse with his Lord upon the Holy Mount, and in it he will again appear when He comes for the deliverance of the faithful remnant, who are morally identified with that seven thousand of whom Elijah was told in the days of his discouragement -- He who, after purging the land of its defilement, will share with all His redeemed ones the joy of His kingdom.

What a course was thine, Elijah! -- fraught with trials and death-struggles, but still more fraught with instruction in the heart of Him whom to serve was thy joy and glory; a course entered on in secret prayer and waiting on God, and ended in a chariot of fire to bear thee to Himself!


The first notice we have of Elisha is 1 Kings 19:16, when the Lord, while rebuking Elijah for his despondency and self-importance in thinking that all testimony had failed, and that he himself was God's solitary witness on earth, directs him to anoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat, in his room.

Elijah being set aside because he was desponding and discouraged, we may conclude that the prophet anointed in his stead will be one gifted with a character and purpose quite the contrary -- even bold and enduring. We often find in scripture that a man's secular employment gives

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us an idea of his adaptability for his future service and an intimation of the nature of his course. Elisha is found "ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth"; and he was doubtless a vigorous and a patient husbandman. Elijah passes by, and casts his mantle on him, thus intimating, I should suppose, that he was to take the place and the calling of the owner of it. Elisha evidently so understood it, but, yielding for a moment to his natural affection, he craves permission to return and kiss his father and mother. The prophet's reply is one fitted to throw him on his own responsibility. "Go back again", he says, "for what have I done to thee?" It was for him to judge whether Elijah's action towards him had been a divine call or not.

That it was divine Elisha's spiritual instincts told him: and though his obedience to it is not as prompt as it might have been, still his measure of faith is followed up by true and suited action. He returns to his home not to remain in it, but to celebrate his surrender of it. "He took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat". He disposes of his possessions for the benefit of others; at one and the same moment declaring his readiness to surrender for the Lord and his benevolence for His people; he, in a measure, sold what he had and gave to the poor, and "then he arose, went after Elijah, and ministered to him". The first answer in the soul to the call of God is very indicative of the order and character of the subsequent course, and we shall find it thus with Elisha. Though he delays a little at first, he eventually follows Elijah, and that not grudgingly or of necessity, but as one who follows with a hearty good will. And thus it is that he enters on a course where he is to be a minister and a witness of the most remarkable of God's ways and works.

The word of the Lord had been that he was to be prophet in Elijah's room; that is, to fill up Elijah's ministry, and the two ministries were not to co-exist; so that it is quite

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fitting that we should not hear of him again till Elijah was about to quit the scene, and then he is presented to us in the high character of the companion of Elijah and the witness of his rapture. As the one retires, the other is brought prominently before us, and deeply significant is the education accorded to him on this the last day of the one, and (in respect to his ministry) the first day of the other; for this day he is installed into office. The sons of the prophets with one accord tell him that this is the last day for his master; and as he walked with Elijah throughout this his last day, he is taught the zeal and, duties proper to God's servant, as well as God's glorious way of removing His servant from the sphere of his labours.

The scene which closed Elijah's service inaugurated Elisha's. If Elisha was naturally strong and qualified for hard and patient labour here on earth, he derives from the rapture of Elijah a power and an idea of God's ways and grace which must remain with him throughout his course, because his course dates from it; his mind is endowed, and his conceptions of God formed from it, and his ministry must be characterised by the communications and admonitions of his installation. Elisha could never forget that the power he had received was in consequence of that union of spirit with Elijah, which had resulted from his concentrated attention on him, as he was carried up into heaven. "If thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee: but if not, it shall not be so", was Elijah's reply to his request for a double portion of his spirit. "And Elisha saw it". Here was the spring and source of all his subsequent power. "The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha" was the immediate testimony of the sons of the prophets, and, according as the Spirit of God acted in him, must he ever afterwards have been carried back to this fine beginning, just as Paul must have recalled the moment when on his way to Damascus he was struck down by the "glory of that light". No doubt the dawn of God's grace in our souls and its effects on us indicate the traits of it which will characterise us subsequently,

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and we all find that the way in which the gospel is presented to and received by any soul at first, presages the character of its course.

Elijah having disappeared, Elisha's career is begun, and the first test of the grace conferred on him is Jordan, the type of actual death, not of the power of death, but as the last barrier between the wilderness and Canaan. A very suited test was this to be encountered by one endowed like Elisha; and the first, because he must know at the outset the power which introduces him into God's inheritance, and that Jordan is the portal to it. Unless we pass Jordan we are not in the land, nor have we learnt how God will sustain us there, and how He will drive out before us all our adversaries. Elijah had crossed Jordan, leaving the land in testimony against its evil, heaven being then opened to him as his own personal portion. Elisha re-crosses it, and re-enters the land in grace, and in the power of God's Spirit, which was to bear down every difficulty.

Very blessed are the exercises to which he is subjected. Even as the Spirit in double power descended on the church in consequence and in virtue of her union with her ascended Lord, so is it with Elisha: his eye had traced the power and glory of God's grace in removing His servant unto Himself, and now he is a witness of the same power on earth in the waters of Jordan being parted asunder for him to enter on his appointed service; and thereby he must have learnt that through God every barrier would be broken down. Like Stephen, he had seen how God had raised man to His own glory, and like him, too, he proved that he himself was, through the power of God, victorious over death.

Elisha's first sphere of service in the land is Jericho, and the first opposition he has to encounter is that of those who, by their very calling, ought to have co-operated with him. The sons of the prophets, though they had seen and owned the power which clave the waters of Jordan, refuse to believe in the rapture of Elijah, and raise questions prompted by unbelief, until Elisha suffers them to do as

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they would, merely to expose their own folly; for when people will not heed the warnings of the Spirit they must be left to learn by their own mistakes. Elisha learns on the other hand that no help or cooperation is to be expected from the sons of the prophets -- the ordained ministry of the day -- and that he must be prepared to encounter their ignorance and inapprehensiveness of the mind of God; a very necessary discovery for the servant of God in an evil day, and in such times of declension as Elisha was called to serve in.

Jericho comes after Jordan. Having surveyed the full range of God's grace -- its glorious blessedness in the rapture of Elijah into heaven, and its power on earth in making a way for him through Jordan -- he must, like Saul of Tarsus, be a minister of it in the place which judicially is at the greatest distance from God in the land of Israel -- the place of the curse. The men of the city in describing the place sum up in a few words the history of the whole world. "The situation is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren". What a picture! Fair to look upon, but unproductive of what alone can meet the necessities of man. Elisha is the one empowered to meet their need. It is a fine moment, and one of deep edification to his soul, when he is thus allowed to be the instrument of God's grace, and to pronounce the word of the Lord: "I have healed these waters", after putting salt therein out of a new cruse, and the "waters were healed unto this day".

Now this service, which must have established the heart of Elisha in the very grace which he ministered, was brought about by very simple though deeply effective education. He who has learnt for himself the grace and power of Jehovah in heaven above and on earth beneath, knows how to act for Him in scenes morally most distant from Him, as was Jericho; and thus was it with our Lord on the earth. But if Elisha be the minister of mercy, he must experience what it is to be rejected, and that in the very place most distinguished by the favour of God and

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the revelation of His goodness. From Bethel, the house of God, come forth youths to mock the ascension of Elijah, crying out as they do to Elisha, "Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head". But the truth of God must be vindicated; and Elisha, though he be the minister of mercy, is the one to invoke judgment on the gainsayer of it. "He turned and cursed them in the name of the Lord; and there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tore forty and two of them". Thus in Jericho and at Bethel he learns two very different lessons. In the one, the mercy of God in meeting the need of man, and in the other, the recklessness of man (where God had shewn most favour) and the consequent and terrible judgment that falls on him.

Elisha goes from thence to Carmel, for retirement I should suppose, but ere long he returns to Samaria -- the scene of service. We must remember that he is properly filling up Elijah's mission which began with prayer (necessity on the earth looking to God) and closed in glory. And from this (the manifestation of the power of God in opening heaven for the reception of man) Elisha began; and, therefore, in studying his history we should expect to learn how the Lord conducts and uses one who thus begins from above and is not of the earth.

In Samaria he is introduced into a scene which discloses to him the political and moral state of all Israel; chapter 3. Moab has rebelled, and the king of Judah is found in unholy league with the kings of Israel and Edom; and the destruction of all three is threatened, not from the power of the enemy but the failure of water. What a condition and association for Jehoshaphat, the Lord's anointed, and one who was really a godly man, to be in! It is he, however, who at this juncture raises the inquiry, which is always that of a heart which knows the Lord but which is away from Him: "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord?" And this brings Elisha on the scene. An important moment it is to him: important as to the testimony of God which he bore, and as to the personal instruction with which it was fraught. Standing in the midst of

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the moral ruin of Israel, of which the scene before him was the witness, he, like the blessed One in later times, on the one hand denounces its apostasy, and on the other links himself with the little that remained for God. "What have I to do with thee?" he says to the king of Israel; "were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee".

But though he can both feel the desolation of Israel, and recognise the remnant, he finds that he is not in a moment up to the mind of God concerning a state of things so discordant to the spiritual mind. He must pause and send for a minstrel. "And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him". His mind must be diverted, and separated from the confusion and despair around him, before it could be so in tune as to be used of the Lord. His ministry was from above, and therefore, whenever there was danger of his falling into the current of things down here, it was necessary that he should be not only diverted from it, but so guided in the midst of it as to be free to receive and convey God's mind and purpose. Music is used to accomplish this in the soul of Elisha; and the effect produced typifies that calm, unperturbed state of mind in which one must be to receive the mind of God above and beyond all that is passing around. If I would know that which is from above, even the counsel and mind of God, I must in myself be calm as to the circumstances around me; otherwise I shall not be able to see it or to act on it.

Elisha had now properly commenced his public ministry amid the apostasy. Hitherto he had been the minister of grace and judgment in a more private way; but now the wide-spread moral desolation of Israel is before him, and he learns to be calm in the midst of it, ere he announces the signal interposition of God on behalf of His people. This is education of the utmost importance. It is a great moment to the soul when it can stand still and see the salvation of the Lord; and especially so with Elisha; for we must again remember that he comes in contact with the ruin and

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destitution of Israel, after having started with the glorious manifestation of God's grace. He had seen first what God is, and now he is learning down here how ruined and necessitous are the people of the God of grace and glory, because of their apostasy and unbelief. And it is in meeting these varied distresses of God's people, and being exercised in his own soul as to the way in which God would meet each, that he himself is enlarged in the power and resources of God.

The next scene in which we find Elisha (chapter 4: 1) is where he is appealed to by a certain woman of the wives of the prophets, who cries to him, "Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen". Here what is noticeable is not so much the nature of the distress as that a widow of one of the Lord's prophets in His own land should be reduced to such straits; it reveals to us how entirely the nation must have forgotten and neglected the care of God, when such a case could be found there unrelieved.

Elisha is here from God to be a witness of this misery, and at first he is quite unprepared for such a case and says, "What shall I do for thee?" The extremity of it doubtless astonished him. Here was he, knowing the greatness and power of God toward His people, yet cognizant of the existence of distress peculiar and unprecedented, and it would seem at first as if it were beyond him. He had never before encountered such misery, but it is in such cases that the true servant is taught to trust in God, and by thus trusting to know what to do. Now the first thing for the heart that is simply resting in God is to take into account every provision of God personally possessed; and this is what Elisha does. "Hast thou anything in the house?" is his next question, and when he hears that she has a pot of oil he directs her to borrow of her neighbours empty vessels -- to be indebted to them only for empty vessels! for these were to contain God's abundant supplies; and Elisha is vouchsafed the privilege of knowing that there was

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enough oil, not only to satisfy the creditor, but that from the largeness of the supply there was a provision for the widow and her sons. So ample and generous are God's mercies when they flow; and this is the most interesting and invigorating knowledge which can be communicated to any servant of God,

But, not only was Elisha to witness these things, he was to experience them himself; not only was he to see things here in striking contrast to that manifestation of glory from which he started, but he must feel the contrast; and if he minister to God's people in their necessities out of His fulness, he must feel the necessity and must suffer himself in God's inheritance, in spirit with Him who had not where to lay His head. He, the Lord of the earth, was indebted to a few women who "ministered to him of their substance", and Elisha is here found in somewhat similar circumstances. (verse 8.) A woman, a Shunammite, provides bread and lodging for him, and in this association he is to pass through in miniature the hopes and sorrows of God's people. God often leads His servants into a small circle of service, wherein the principles of His full purpose are practically made known. It was so with Noah in the ark; with Abraham on mount Moriah; with Paul with regard to the church; with Elisha here. Israel, at this time, was like the Shunammite; her husband was old, and there was no child for a continuation of their name; so the nation was decaying, and ready to pass away, and there was no heir to carry it into new life and hopes.

Gehazi, who, I suppose, represents Israel after the flesh, sees and tells the prophet this state of things. Elisha promises a son, and a son is born. But before the harvest, before the feast of ingathering, the child dies, the hope of the family is no more, and the mother flies to the prophet in her distress. He is in Carmel, in retirement, and the depth to which Israel is reduced, as typified in this woman, is as yet unrevealed to him by the Lord (verse 27). But now he was not only to learn it, but his own soul was to pass through the wondrous way and manner of God's deliverance

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of His people from this, their low estate. This is quite new experience to Elisha, and only step by step is he brought into it. He must be taught that Gehazi and the prophet's own staff will not do; that no intervention will repair death; nothing but life can meet death, and this Elisha learns in his own person. It is he who is, through the power of God, made to communicate life to the dead child: a simple and distinct type of Him, who, Himself the Eternal Life, came into this world to impart it; but a wondrous place for a man to be set in, and a wondrous display of God's grace to him, ignorant and unacquainted as he had been with the sorrow that he is now empowered to relieve. In all the exercises which Elisha here passed through, as he walked to and fro in the house, and went up again and stretched himself upon the child and prayed, he is taught, though in a comparatively feeble way, what our Lord passed through so fully; on the one hand, the terribleness of death; and on the other, the blessedness of life.

We next find Elisha at Gilgal; and here he has to meet the dearth of the land, the sons of the prophets sitting before him. The one who has learned the power and grace of God, as the life-giving God, can easily, trusting in Him in the face of all professors, relieve the casual distresses which afflict us in passing through this evil scene. He says to his servant, "Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets"; but what Elisha, as the servant of God, is preparing, is spoiled by the inter-meddling of the unbelieving. The wild gourds, though supposed by the one who gathered them to be an acquisition, only added death to the pottage; and in the same way do all human additions to faith and to God's way bring death. Elisha, still trusting in the life-giving God, is equal to the emergency. He casts in meal and the deadly element is destroyed. A soul that is simply trusting in God will ever be able to carry out its purpose; for it is of faith, though it may meet with interruptions and hindrances when it least expects them. Faith always increases

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by exercise, and its sphere or work is enlarged when used; consequently we next find Elisha feeding the people (an hundred men) with only "twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof", and notwithstanding the objections of the unbelieving servitor, he replies, "Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof".

We have now reached chapter 5 of 2 Kings, where Elisha is to act as the prophet of God outside the limits of Israel. He has been practically educated in the power of God, and therefore is prepared to say of Naaman the Syrian, "Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel". And when Naaman obeys the summons, Elisha only sends a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean". Although quite ready to succour the Syrian leper, he is no respecter of persons, and preserves the dignity of God's servant. He is there to send him forth for salvation and cure, but he makes no account of him as captain of the host of Syria. And hence, when Naaman is healed, Elisha refuses to take anything from him, in the true independence of the servant of God. He would help the Gentile, but not receive from him. And in principle we learn by the judgment passed on Gehazi that if we grasp at and acquire the goods of the world, we shall inevitably involve ourselves in its leprosy.

We should note, that in the history of Elisha there is less apparent need for discipline than in other servants. He is before us as endowed from above, and when we follow him, we see how aptly and beautifully the grace of God flows from the vessel according to the need it encounters; and though we do not see the discipline through which he learnt so to yield himself to God, that he could fully display His mind -- we know that it must have been so; and also that the best evidence of true effective discipline is the meekness and simplicity of heart with which I act according to the mind of God in the various and distinct cases occurring to me. In this light no history is more interesting

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than Elisha's; the easy and divine way with which he meets every variety of difficulty is beautiful. It is instructive to us to follow him and see how the servant acts in each varied circumstance, and how the Lord used him to expound that grace which should be so supremely set forth in eternal power by the greatest of all servants -- the Son of His love. To be ready as God's vessel for every emergency that arises is the end of all discipline.

Chapter 6. Here we have a circle of wondrous action reaching from a personal to a national calamity; embracing, I may say, in principle, every grade of human sorrow. First, the sons of the prophets, feeling the straitness of the place, propose to Elisha to go unto Jordan, and dwell there. He goes with them; and as one was felling a beam the axe head fell into the water, and he cried, "Alas, master! for it was borrowed". Elisha immediately enters into his sorrow and distress, which was not merely the loss, but the man's credit was at stake, because it was borrowed, and the prophet's tender consideration for his distress is very touching; there is in him both tenderness and power to meet every anxious human sensibility. "And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither: and the iron did swim. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it".

We next find Elisha bringing about the defeat of the king of Syria, by warning the king of Israel of his approach; chapter 6: 9. And the king of Syria being apprised of this, and consequently exasperated against Elisha, sends spies to find out his abode; and, having discovered it to be Dothan, he sends thither horses and chariots, and a great host, and compassed the city: all this warlike array being thought necessary to secure the person of one poor unarmed man -- a striking evidence (even as it was in a later day, when a company with swords and staves was sent out to take the blessed One) that the ungodly instinctively feel their own helplessness in the presence of the power of God, even when it only acts on their fellow-man.

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The magnitude of this Syrian host was such, that Elisha's servant was terrified, and says, "Alas, my master! how shall we do?" And Elisha, in the power of that faith which had quieted his own soul, replies, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them". "If God be for us, who can be against us?" was the experience of his soul; and every anxiety of his own being disposed of, he can intercede for others; he prays that his servant may be assured by that vision of faith which his own eye rested on. "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see". It is not enough for me to rest by faith myself on God's succour, or to ask others to do so, but I must seek to establish them in the power of it. Readily the Lord grants his request. The eyes of the young man are opened, and he sees the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

And now he prays again with a different request. When the host of Syria had terrified his servant, he had prayed that his eyes might be opened to see the host of God, and he was heard. Now he prays that the eyes of his enemies may be closed, and he is heard again. The Lord "smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha;" they are completely in his power; he leads them away from the city into the midst of Samaria, and then with touching and instructive kindness and mercy he will allow no revenge to be taken of these captives, but says, "Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master". How simple and wonderful for a man to be thus led into the mind and resources of God, meeting every contingency in divine grace and strength; treating the servant with as much consideration and attention as the king; attaching as much importance to the loss of the borrowed axe head as to a city compassed about by armies; thus proving that the circle of God's power and grace embraces the smallest as well as the greatest contingency!

Verse 24. We next find the king of Israel reduced to great straits (there is a famine in Samaria), and, imputing

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it to Elisha, he vows vengeance against him. Now this proves that no amount of mercy conferred can be remembered or appreciated by the human heart if the fear of death be still impending. Elisha had been the witness and minister of God's grace and power in averting from the nation manifold calamities, and instead of there being respect or favour for him from the king for the past, his life is threatened unless he continues to succour them. At this juncture the prophet sat in the house and the elders sat with him, I conclude, waiting on God; and he gets intimation from the Lord of the king's evil intention. When the messenger enters, he says, "Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?" The time was now come to announce the word of the Lord, and he does so. "Thus saith the Lord, To-morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria". And so it came to pass.

This, the greatest, is the last recorded public service of Elisha to Israel. He had been used of God to shew forth His power and grace, from the smallest to the greatest, in the whole circle of human necessity. And now it is over; though with him, as with his great Antitype, it might truly be said, he had "laboured in vain, he had spent his strength for naught". He now sends to anoint Jehu to be king over Israel (chapter 9), and he is to smite the house of Ahab, and avenge the blood of all the servants of the Lord.

The last recorded public event of his life is his interview with Hazael at Damascus; chapter 8: 7. The Lord had shewed him that Ben-hadad, king of Syria, was to die, and Hazael to reign in his stead; and as he looked on Hazael he wept, knowing all the evil that he would do to the children of Israel. And with this, his last public act, we lose sight of our prophet on earth. He had started as the witness of God's supreme power over death, and of the glory beyond it, and he had pursued his course down here, shewing forth according to the revealed power of God, the

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manner and fulness of His mercy and succour to man. He now passes from our view, mourning for what he foresaw should befall God's people, though it was but the consequence of their own sin and folly. In the same way did the greater than Elisha wind up the history of His association with, and unrequited service to, Israel. He wept over the city which had refused to know the things that belonged unto her peace, and which was to pass under the judgment of God, because she knew not the time of her visitation. And from thence He passes from that perfect life -- that work of grace which Elisha's had feebly foreshadowed -- to the death in which Elisha could not follow Him.

Yet when Elisha was "fallen sick of the sickness whereof he died" (2 Kings 13:14); when no longer able to be a public witness; when Joash, the king of Israel, came down unto him and wept over his face, applying the very words which Elisha had used to Elijah at his rapture, "O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof"; because the sun of Israel was setting in the person of this great prophet; even then, in this moment, when sinking into death, he is strong and mighty in the power and the grace of God. He tells Joash to take bow and arrow; and when at his direction the king had put his hand on the bow, Elisha put his hand on the king's hands and said, "Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of the Lord's deliverance". The Lord's grace towards His people was not yet exhausted. It was not only the arrow of His deliverance from Syria, but the direction to shoot eastward toward the rising sun told of coming glory. Elisha was passing away from the scene, sinking westward as it were: but glory and power would come as the bright shining of the sun after rain. And in the confidence of this he directs the king of Israel to take the arrow and smite upon the ground. "And he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst

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thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice".

In his very last moments the dying prophet has to meet with disappointment from the people whom he served, for they were unable to embrace in its full extent the grace offered to them. The king had no energy to be an instrument of that grace. True energy always shews itself in cheerful, abounding obedience, and the heart is conscious of it. Where there is faith, and according as there is, so is there the manifest expression of it, and, the outward acts are always in correspondence with the inward power. How blessedly and how in keeping with his life does our prophet pass away! In his death he is full of the coming glory and deliverance, while he has to witness the feeble faith of those whom he served.

Elisha dies, but so great is the power of life by which his whole history is characterised, that mere contact with his bones restores to life a corpse which was thrown into his sepulchre. The power of God in grace and resurrection-life were set forth by him; and not only is he here a voice from the dead, but a pledge of that power which will yet restore Israel to life.

The Lord give us to learn of Himself, to be meek and lowly of heart, doing His will, that He may be able to use us for any expression of His grace that He chooses, be it little difficulties or for great exigencies, to the praise of His name. Amen.


Nothing is more interesting or helpful to us than to be taught the ways of God by a living example -- one who is like ourselves in nature and feeling, and who is used of God and, empowered by Him to do His will. We see thereby how the grace of God works and where it is hindered; and not only this, but we see the way in which we ourselves under similar circumstances would act, while we also get a clear perception of what the mind of God is

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as to such circumstances, how it addresses itself to man, and how man is formed and controlled by it. This nature of the divine ways is explained to us through the medium of the human servant; and we learn on the one hand how God would use him, and on the other how he fails when not simply led by God. We require to know both, because unless we do, we cannot get a clear idea of the divine discipline. Scripture, through an individual example, sets forth to us the nature and character of the circumstances through which God's servant is passing; and as we study and observe his instructions to the individual, we arrive at an understanding of God's mind at the time.

Hezekiah comes before us at a very critical period in Israel's history, and the way he is prepared of God and taught of Him for such an eventful time is very instructive. There is often a great similarity in leading points between the position which we are called to occupy ourselves and that occupied by distinguished servants of God. The points of resemblance between the great and the small in God's household are very marked, and the study of His ways with a leading servant often helps another who is unknown beyond his immediate circle. And yet the ways of God may be as truly learned by him, and he may be as thoroughly disciplined under His hand as the most prominent and distinguished servant.

Hezekiah, in his history, presents to us two things: the first, how he was strengthened to succeed in renewing the testimony of the Lord in a very exemplary way, at a time when everything had sunk to the lowest state, and was to all appearance in irretrievable ruin; secondly, how he was taught to rest in God, while his soul was brought to a conviction of the end and desolation of everything here. It is very interesting to dwell on a history like this, and to observe how God leads on His servant, uses him to do His will and to walk in His ways, and yet teaches him, that, however he has succeeded, or has been a channel of success, still if he turns aside and depends on man, all is forfeited.

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Hezekiah's life, in its deep broad lines, is a chequered and deeply instructive one. The first notice we get of him is that he "removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan", 2 Kings 18:4. This was a bold and decisive act wherewith to open his public career as God's servant, for the high places had existed before, since, and throughout the days of Solomon. (See 1 Kings 3:3.) What manner of discipline Hezekiah had already passed through in order to qualify him for such prompt and decided action we are not told.

From the record of his father's ways, and the state of things connected with the testimony of the Lord, we should not be prepared to see him, a young man of twenty-five, immediately on ascending the throne acting with so much vigour and decision. He emerges out of all the waste and debris of former greatness, as if he had no contact with it; as if he had been taught to separate from and denounce all that surrounded him. He takes his place in the scene like another David visiting his brethren in the valley of Elah. Apart from, and yet among them, he addresses himself to remove everything dishonouring to God. The work he does indicates the school he has learned in, and in which he has obtained his ideas.

The well-trained mind, the more it sees, and the higher the scenes which are presented to it, the more does it require, while it seeks to conform all within its power and province to its own improved convictions. This is the end of education, and the fruit of all extended knowledge; the better thing being accepted, the inferior is discovered and refused. The way in which we act, when the opportunity for acting comes, discloses the nature of the principles which we have imbibed. Thus the reformation wrought by the young king Hezekiah testified surely that he had been educated in the divine school in no ordinary way. David's discipline in the wilderness prepared him for his valiant

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engagement with Goliath; and Hezekiah must have been in some other way prepared and exercised, or he could not have met in so masterly a manner the disorder which surrounded him. The disorders themselves thus discipline and test the servant of God. One submits to them, another groans over them, a third meets them with feeble and inadequate remedies, but he who has been taught of God in his mind and spirit what is the true and divine order, can propose or accept nothing less, He makes no compromise -- the right thing, and the right thing only, is his measure according to God -- and this he insists on whatever it may sweep away.

It is sometimes apparently a very little thing, and a thing long overlooked by other servants of God, which peculiarly indicates the elevated position of the faithful servant. Hezekiah's extermination of the serpent of brass at once shews him to be one whose soul was well disciplined by God for His service; for though we may not always see the discipline, we see fruits which nothing but holy discipline could have fostered and developed. God's honour is first maintained, and Hezekiah is confirmed in strength, and asserts on all sides the rights of his calling, and his true dignity as king of Judah. "And the Lord was with him: and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not". But not only did Hezekiah assert and maintain his true place as God's king; he also in a very full and complete way maintained the testimony for God. It is not enough to oppose and resist our enemies, or even to compel them to surrender encroachments; we must also set forth what is the truth of God. Hezekiah not only proves himself stronger than his enemies, but he also devotes himself to the re-establishment of the testimony of God.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened he the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. So largely and fully did he effect restoration and procure blessing that it is said, "So there was great joy in Jerusalem:

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for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem", 2 Chronicles 30:26. And in chapter 31: 20 it is summed up: "And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God". To resist evil and introduce good evinces the possession of divine power; it is not one-sided. Where there is only conviction or persuasion, and not divine power, there will always be marked imperfection. "The legs of the lame are not equal". There may be a great effort to resist the enemy, without a commensurate effort to recover the truth; while on the other hand there may be an avowed desire to recover the truth, while there is tampering with what is hostile to it; a cry for the suppression of evil without paying any regard to the testimony of God; or a connivance with that which is really opposed to Christ with a profession of His name. Hezekiah is not of either of these orders; he resists evil and supports the truth of God in its true force and excellence.

The period which I have hastily sketched occurred within the first fourteen years of Hezekiah's reign, a prosperous, useful time; but the more useful any one is, the more he requires to be brought to an end of himself, and to find that his all is in God. We find some of His servants deeply chastened at first, in order to prepare them for a useful course; and some after a useful period are brought low and afflicted in order that they might learn how truly and fully God, in His own blessed self, is paramount to everything.

This fourteenth year was an eventful one with Hezekiah, for we read, "Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them", 2 Kings 18:13. And again, "After these things [that is, those which I have glanced at above], and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah"; also in those days was Hezekiah sick unto death, 2 Chronicles 32:1. Trial from without and from within is upon him.

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His sickness must have occurred in the fourteenth year of his reign, for, from his sickness, fifteen years were added unto his life; and as he reigned only twenty-nine years, it must therefore have occurred in the fourteenth year. Its being related as subsequent to the second invasion by Sennacherib is, I conclude, on account of its having a typical import: for Hezekiah's exercises during his sickness set forth what Israel will go through before their final deliverance, it is a beautiful and interesting sight to behold Hezekiah for fourteen years (twice seven, a doubly perfect period) walking on the earth before God in dignity and faithfulness.

But now we have to observe him and to learn from him in far different circumstances, even as one oppressed and intimidated by the king of Assyria; and deeply and sorely exercised in his own soul before God. He appears to have lost his faith in the first invasion of Sennacherib, because we can hardly imagine that Sennacherib persisted in his first invasion after receiving the fine which he had imposed. The history is simply this: In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, Sennacherib came up and laid siege to certain cities of Judah. At that time Hezekiah bought him off and stipulated to pay him a certain sum or ransom. Subsequent to this Sennacherib came up again (possibly on his return from Egypt), and then he threatened Jerusalem; and it was between these two invasions that Hezekiah by a great sickness was led into such deep exercise of soul. For fourteen years he had walked with God and prospered. Then, for the first time, failure appears in his course. Instead of repelling the invasion of the king of Assyria, as he would at one time have done, he buys him off.

At the beginning of his reign, without any apparent resources, he had freed himself from the king of Assyria and served him not. Whereas now, after being established in success and invested with power on every side, there is inability and confessed powerlessness to maintain the position which was taken when nothing but faith had

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authorised him to assume it. What a commentary is this on the failure of God's servants! But it is easily accounted for. When I am serving God in dependence on Him, I see his way for me, and I am bold in it, even though I may see no means at all by which I can be maintained in it; but when I begin to rest in the fruits of my faithfulness, the possessions and resources given me of God, I fear to imperil them, if not holding them from Him and with him. Thus was it with Hezekiah. He who had so fearlessly assumed his true place, and the divine rights vested in him, cannot maintain it or them without stooping to the unworthy expedient of buying off him whom he had set at defiance when his faith was in vigour. What a contrast between the confidence which faith in God gives and that which is derived from the largest amount of human resources! Hezekiah with nothing but God, can refuse to serve the king of Assyria: Hezekiah surrounded with great power and prosperity sinks into the place of a vassal.

It was at this juncture, I assume, that his sickness was inflicted. And surely there was a needs-be for it. In this sickness God will teach him death, and the terribleness of it to man as man. What can be more touching than Hezekiah's own account of the exercises of his soul when he contemplates death. The Lord intimates to him through the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 38), "Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore". (See 2 Kings 20:3.) This is an exercise and discipline which every saint, one way or another, must enter into and endure. This moment, dreadful to nature, must be passed through. What a moment! when all that man cares for, all that connects him with his own works and will, sinks into dissolution. Man as he is himself no longer exists. The greater his place here -- the more

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extended his occupation -- the more pleasing his associations -- the more engaged his affections, the more terrible the wrench to which he is subjected in death.

Hezekiah was an excellent and an eminently useful man, one who had walked before God in truth and with a perfect heart. His suffering in view of death was not because of a doubt of his final salvation, but it was the contemplation of death, as that which must sever him from all that interested and engaged him here. Could any man who felt himself the centre of usefulness and power here, independently of other considerations, take it lightly that he should be deprived of all this position and sphere of interest by the stern power of death?

Can any one realise what it is to be severed from all he loves and cares for as a man, from all who care for him, and consider him a link to their existence, and not sympathise with Hezekiah, instead of condemning him?

The experience of Hezekiah tells us how a man of God -- a regenerate soul -- feels the wrench. Of course we are not taking into account how a Christian, knowing that he has life in Christ at the other side of the grave, apart from and above the flesh, would pass through this ordeal. Yet he, too, must pass through it. And that he does so victoriously is not because it is less real to him than it was to Hezekiah, but because he has received, through grace, life in the risen Christ -- a life which confers on him infinitely more than he loses in death. But it is necessary in order that we should understand that the giving up of our existence as man is a thing that must be now learnt morally in the cross of Christ; and that this giving up (that is, death) is no light thing; nay, that it is in itself an exceeding bitter thing, but yet a thing that must be; and that a man's goodness and usefulness here, instead of mitigating the desperateness of the blow, aggravates it and imparts a deeper agony to it.

The actual surrender of my existence as a man is not the mere pain of dying as a lower animal suffers; it is the termination of my connection with all that interests and

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attracts me, and makes life valuable and great. The bitterness of death is past when one is so worn by sorrow or sickness that he longs for dissolution; but to be severed from everything here without a heavenly hope -- to be no more here for God or for man, this is its bitterness: and this Hezekiah expresses when he says, "In the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.... Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward".

This writing of Hezekiah, it will be seen, is the Spirit's account of the exercise which took place in him during this severe discipline. But when he comes to the words, "O Lord, I am oppressed: undertake for me", there is evidently a new light in his soul; he enters into resurrection -- in hope. He can now say, "O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.... Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption [there is also the sense of the Lord's forgiveness]: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.... The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day".

The discipline has effected its blessed purpose. A terrible ordeal it was, but none other can lead the soul to rest entirely in God as the spring and fountain of life. If I am alive with God, death to man and to man's things becomes small to me; but then, to realise the actual blessedness of living by the Son of God, and unto God in a life pleasing and suited to Him, I must needs know and realise my death as a man. This is no light thing, for it is the summing up and END of all discipline. If we were to reckon ourselves dead, and to allow the Spirit to maintain

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Christ in us in everything, this discipline would only promote what we had accepted in the power of life, but death -- moral death -- is a very real and in itself a very bitter thing; and it is only in proportion as we are in the life of Christ that we are able to accept it joyfully, and to say, "The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day".

Hezekiah has now passed through wonderful experience. He has known what it is to be in the valley of the shadow of death; he has seen the lights here go out one by one -- he has felt the silver cord loosening, and has known the mighty power of God in raising him up again. He has been well disciplined by the tender hand of God: will he now walk as thus taught and renewed in knowledge? The remainder of the history of Hezekiah sets before us the testing to which one, educated as he has been, is exposed; how he is ensnared, and yet how he gives evidence of the benefit of the discipline through which he has passed. It seems a paradox, that one should exhibit special weakness and special strength, after a season of deep and blessed discipline; but so this. The weakness of the nature is exposed, and the strength of the grace conferred is declared also.

It is a mistake which is sometimes made, to think that grace in a way cloaks the flesh and screens it from discovery. It is quite true that grace would suppress and subdue the flesh, but it never imparts to it a false colour and appearance. On the contrary, where there is most grace, there the hideousness of flesh is most exposed, if it be not subdued and judged. Thus it is not uncommon to see an outbreak of the flesh, or its tendency in nature exposed, where there is a true deep vein of grace. Peter denies the Lord: his flesh is exposed, while the deep vein of grace in his soul leads him to repentance. Paul is enriched in his soul with the treasures of glory, and consequent thereon, there is a need for a check on the flesh, which otherwise might not have betrayed itself. The evil in me, in fact, is brought to light through grace, while

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I am also more distinctly led on by grace. The evil ought to be discovered before it works, and if I am walking near the Lord it will be; but if not, being in grace does not prevent the disclosure of it. If seen and judged before God, it is put away without being publicly betrayed in acts; but if not, grace will not screen it; it will be brought to light, and will there receive judgment from God as it had not received judgment from oneself: for if we judged ourselves we should not be judged. The more we have advanced in grace, the more exposure there will be, if the flesh be not subdued by the grace conferred on us; that is, if we are not walking in dependence on God, from whom we have received the grace.

Hezekiah, in the matter of the ambassadors from Babylon, betrays his nature; he who in deep exercise of soul had vowed, "I will go softly all my days", is still not proof against the flattery of the world. "Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and shewed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that; was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not".

This man who, through such discipline, had learned death, is still not proof against being recognised here and made much of by Babylon. God's servant ought to have refused any such recognition; but he gave way, and consequently he brought judgment on his house. What a striking evidence of how irretrievable man is in his nature, and that when he is acknowledged and made much of, then it is that he is tested. "As the refining pot to silver, so is man to his praise". The simple fact of the gratification which it affords our flesh to be recognised and exalted is proof positive of the danger attendant on it to us. Hezekiah falls beneath it! What a fall for a man who, in exercise of soul, had learnt death and resurrection! Babylon embodies in principle all the selfish independent advancement of this world. To be acknowledged by it is

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too much for Hezekiah, and the acknowledgment which he in his unbelief and vanity accepts entails judgment on his family; for the favour of the world is deceitful. Hezekiah's weak point, is exposed, while judgment is inflicted not only on himself, but on his house: in the judgment on his family his nature is judged, and not merely the offence which was the fruit of the nature.

But while in this matter we see such a sad exposure, in what follows, Hezekiah is a bright example to us of how a man should act when under apparently overwhelming trials. If the flattery of Babylon discloses weakness and vanity, as is always the tendency in worldly prosperity, the invasion and fearful threatening of the Assyrian (2 Kings 18:17) only brings to light the strength of his reliance on God. The great discipline which he has passed through has not been ineffectual. To man he preserves a calm, imperturbable dignity. "The king's commandment", with reference to the messengers sent by the king of Assyria, was, "Answer him not a word", but to the Lord he unburdens his heart, and spreads out before Him all his distress. He had before in weakness essayed to buy off the invader; but now he rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord. His position and bearing now is the very opposite to what it was with the Babylonish ambassadors; and truly indicative of one who had been raised out of death -- who had learned what death really is; he is here as nothing in himself, but his hope is in God.

When the Lord promised Hezekiah recovery from his sickness, He also promised him deliverance from the Assyrian; 2 Kings 20:6. The victory of the Lord is a complete one, over oneself, and over every other oppressor; but the heart has to learn as having passed through death, that it can endure better when there is death and pressure before it than when there is acknowledgment and flattering recognition. Hezekiah understands death, and what God is in death, and therefore under the pressure of the Assyrian he turns to God; whereas when he is courted

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and flattered by the ambassadors of Babylon, he falls under the fatal influence of that system which they personate, and his children and nation in God's government must suffer accordingly. Hezekiah's marvellous deliverance from the Assyrians by the interposition of God is the last event of his life which is recorded in scripture, and it not inaptly closes the history of his discipline. He has learned that all flesh is grass, and God becomes all in all before his soul. When we have come to this, the purpose of all discipline has been effected. May we learn and walk in patience, that we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing!


It is especially instructive in a day like this to note the discipline to which the prophets in Old Testament times were subjected, for they were raised up in order to revive the truth of God among His people, and to announce to them the judgment which would fall on them if they did not repent; and hence the energy of Satan in that day was to set up false prophets, as even in this day there are false teachers.

Isaiah prophesied in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The first notice we have of him is that a vision was given him and this is important, as defining the nature and line of the truth of which he is to be the witness. It concerns Judah and Jerusalem; the royal tribe, and the city of God, and the apostasy of Judah. "My people doth not consider ... from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it", and yet "Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness".

Next, in chapter 2 we get "The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem", and this word extends down to the end of chapter 5.

Up to this, Isaiah had the vision and the word of the Lord: one, what was shown him, the other, the word

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spoken; both so necessary for the prophet. Now in chapter 6 we have his own personal exercises. Here Isaiah sees the Lord in glory. In the former chapter we have the twofold form of instruction, the vision and the word. Here is presented to us how he was personally qualified for ministering what he had been instructed in. He sees the King, the Lord of hosts, or as it is said in John 12, "When he saw his glory". Here the instruction really takes root; here he is made the fitted channel for communicating the things given to him. I think it will be found that every preparation for service is according to the measure of sense which the soul has of being in the presence of God, and in this way the state of the soul is in keeping with the line of service. The appearance of the Lord in glory is not confined to one or two; in measure He appeared in glory to each of His servants. That is to say, it was from the glory they received the nature and extent of their commission. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham. As God appeared to each, so did He reveal Himself to them, and according as He was revealed to them, so was their service defined. He appeared to Moses, to Joshua and so on; but in every instance I apprehend that the appearance of the Lord in His own glory and status determined the line of the servant's mission. Then it was that His mind was given to the servant in form, and then they received the impression which they were to maintain in their course here. We know Paul got the gospel thus, and if ever he failed in the terms of it, he had to recur to what was then written in his soul by the Spirit of the living God. So here Isaiah is qualified for the duties of his office, the Lord appears to him in glory, and, as is always the case, the terrible contrast of himself in nature to the holiness of God's presence, is pressed upon him. He is filled with fear and shame; he is deeply conscious of his unfitness for God. The presence of the glory always exposes this; the depth of humiliation in me personally, is always the effect of the light of the glory; but then there is grace in the glory; hence a live coal from the altar, like the kiss to the

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prodigal, touches his lips, and there is also the word to assure the heart of its operation. "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged". This is a wondrous revelation to the favoured servant, even that in God's glory he is freed from iniquity and his sin purged. This is a great lesson; and if not the first, it is the greatest, and the one which will most sustain the servant in his course. After this discipline we read that when the Lord calls, "Whom shall I send?" Isaiah readily answers, "Here am I; send me". Then he gets his commission which embraces the state of Israel from that day to this, and is quoted by our Lord in John 12 and by Paul in Acts 28.

Next we have Isaiah, in his service, directed by the Lord thus, "Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field". To himself and his son (as that which was derived from himself) is thus committed the message given of God. Peculiar and interesting expression of thorough faithfulness! It is worthy of note how the children indicated the faith of the parent and his present standing with God.

I think it is important to note the difference between the instruction the prophet has to impart to Ahaz, as the mind and grace of God, and what he himself personally must manifest practically. Hence, in chapter 8: 1, Isaiah is directed to take a great roll, and to write in it with a man's pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Thus is recorded, as a definite and positive event, that there should be a hastening to the spoil; and again, it is the child of the prophet who is to bear witness by his name to this gracious intervention of God. How significant that a man should be so thoroughly for God that everything which emanates from him (as his offspring especially does) should indicate in living impersonation the mind and favour of God! How blessed when the servant not only communicates the mind of God and reveals His purposes, but when he also, in his son -- his own generation, practically maintains testimony

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to the present ways of God. How effectual has been the discipline when the servant is at once God's organ and witness!

Here we find that the prophet not only clearly saw things as they were, but he was taught of God to see the order of things which hereafter would be introduced for the glory of God; and hence he saw them not only as they were then, but as they would be. Consequently, in the end of the chapter he tells us in verse 11, "The Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people". And then from verse 12 to verse 18, the mind of Christ during His rejection is imparted to him; and the prophet, in his own mind, personates Him. The strong hand of Jehovah has instructed him, introducing him, through a knowledge of His mind, into the very interval which we now occupy. Then we get the sorrows of Israel from verses 19 - 22.

In chapter 9: 1 - 7 the prophet sees the beginning of blessing and the consummation of it. I only note this to mark how the Lord prepares and fashions the servant for His service in the grievous time he was to live in. We know that he lived during all the reign of Ahaz, even sixteen years, and for more than twenty-five years of Hezekiah's reign. What a sad and peculiar time it was! What a contrast is the history of our prophet to that of Israel as recorded in 2 Kings 16! What blessed instruction he got to form and qualify him for dealing with the various forms of evil then reaching a head in Israel. There is discipline through the word, as well as discipline through circumstances; nay, the former exceeds the latter. The word of God is quick and powerful, and from the effects of it one would be like Daniel, "a man astonied".

Ahaz was the first king of Judah who made his son pass through the fire; the corruption which had been allowed in Israel had now been adopted by him; he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. The line which had distinguished Judah from the ten kingdoms was fast fading away; the moral distinction no longer continued. Thus

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is it in Christendom. The advocates for the Bible, and the rights of God, are fast committing themselves to the worst corruptions. Ahaz sacrificed and burnt incense in high places, and on the hills and under every green tree. He sends to Tiglath-pileser to help him, and he consummates his apostasy by erecting an altar after the pattern of one he had seen at Damascus. I note all this in order to present the state of things in Judah during this part of Isaiah's prophecy, extending to chapter 14 when we read -- king Ahaz died. The instruction which the Lord communicated to him during that trying time qualified and empowered him to be the prophet for the Lord, able to recall the remnant to the purpose and counsel of God. As to appearances, from the throne downwards, there was everything to discourage him; but so peculiar and vivid were the communications made to him, that he was able to rise above all that was visible, and to look right onward and forward, as a godly Jew would have done, into the beautiful arena of God's future ways on earth.

Let us briefly review. In chapter 9: 1 - 7, the future blessing of Israel is foreseen, beginning in Galilee of the Gentiles, and reaching on to its consummation in the kingdom. How blessedly must a disclosure like this have strengthened Isaiah for the Lord's service in that evil day! Nothing places one so superior to anything as having knowledge of the issue. It is not acquaintance with what exists that helps one, but he who has the secret of the result holds the key of the position. With this key Isaiah is entrusted, and every servant of God fitted by Him to stand in an evil day is in the Lord's mercy similarly qualified. He is not only instructed as to the final blessing of the people, but the judgment that must fall on them, because of their evil, is also communicated to him. The grace of God as well as His righteousness is shewn out more fully by the wickedness of man.

Hence Isaiah is not only shewn the future deliverance of God's people, but he is also instructed in the judgment that was to fall on them, and how the "Assyrian", the rod

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of mine anger, "will tread them down like mire in the street", chapter 10: 5. Yet the remnant shall return (verse 21.) Here, be it remarked, the interpretation of Shear-jashub, the prophet's son, is -- "the remnant shall return". Most interesting that his own son should bear a name pregnant with so much to a servant of God at such a time. How various and suitable are the touching modes by which the blessed God fits and sustains one in His service! The condition and blessing of the remnant is detailed down to the end of chapter 12.

In chapters 13 and 14, down to verse 27, the rise and fall of Babylon are presented to the prophet. It is worthy of note that at this time, historically, Babylon was a very insignificant place; but the Spirit of God instructs His servant as to His own estimate of Babylon, and the evil principles it had given birth to, and not according to man's judgment. I think we should gather from the manner and order of the Lord's teaching the truth which qualified a servant of God for the times and circumstances in which he was placed.

Isaiah now enters on a new era. Hezekiah has ascended the throne of Judah. The burden in the four last verses in chapter 14: 28 - 32 is an epitome of the sufferings of Israel and the restoration of the remnant. There will be a momentary deliverance through Hezekiah, but there will also come judgment first; and in all this must the prophet, in such a day, be instructed and preserved by the word and counsel of God; and hence we are shewn how truly he has been fitted for his post. We little comprehend the value of a mind well disciplined in the purposes of God, through His word, and how one so disciplined addresses himself to meet things here. To such an one all the actings of men seem only as the raving of madness, or the trifling of little children; there is no preparation like the discipline of the word to one who, like Isaiah, has been set at rest in the glory of the presence of God. And hence, as I understand, from chapter 15 to 36, he is shewn how Judah, and the nations connected with it, are in the eye of

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God. First he has been set with God as to his own soul; and then in his children, which are the expression of himself in continuation, there is testimony to the mind and purpose of God; and then he is able, after surveying the judgment of God on Moab, Damascus, Ethiopia, and Egypt, when the Assyrian power initiates the judgment, to loose the sackcloth from his loins, and put of the shoe from his foot, walking naked and barefoot, as a witness in himself of the nature of the sufferings that they should endure; chapter 20: 2. What is interesting to note and gather up from these chapters is the manner of the discipline through which God would pass His servant in the times in which he lived. We have now traced in him three great exercises: one, as to his own position with God in glory; secondly, in that his children express the mind of God; and thirdly, that he is suffering -- that he endures in himself personally the very suffering which he predicts on the rebellious and thoughtless; but he endures, without deserving it, what they endure, because they do deserve it, and this though it be on Egypt. A testimony of the nature of the sufferings is set forth by the one who predicts them. He is not unconscious of, or indifferent to, what he predicts, and this is very necessary discipline for the prophet.

Now in chapter 21 we find Isaiah going through another very necessary experience, even that of sorrow and distress in his own spirit, because of the terrible things about to happen, though one of these very things is the overthrow of Babylon. That is, he sees the coming up of the Persians, and the destruction of Babylon by them; he is filled with pain and anguish The treacherous dealer hath dealt treacherously: he is bowed down at the hearing of it, and dismayed at the seeing of it. The prophet is not a mere machine; he enters into and feels the nature and character of the things he is the minister of. The fall of Babylon has well-nigh overwhelmed him, though it be judgment on the nation that was Israel's scourge; yet Isaiah feels in his soul, before the Lord, the terribleness of the judgment; and hence, when the wave of judgment overtakes Jewry in

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chapter 22, he suffers still more acutely; he is not a passive spectator of the sufferings he foresees, he suffers before any one else suffers, and this is true discipline, even for a servant to enter into the nature and effect of the very truths which he announces. He says, "Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people" (verse 4). After passing through this sorrow of heart, he is sent to Shebna, the treasurer (verse 15) "which is over the house", to announce to him that all his greatness, even that connected with a tomb, should fail; he is to be an example of the nature of the judgment on Jerusalem: The Lord "will violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house" (verse 18). And yet there should be restoration in Eliakim. In the very moment of judgment, and when the heart of the servant is bowed down because of it, and when a leading man is singled out as the type of it, he is comforted and reassured as to future deliverance. Yet the range and sweeping nature of the judgment are continued, so that though he sees the mercy of Jehovah, yet he is conscious of what he is himself, in, such a scene of overflowing judgment; and hence in chapter 24: 16 he exclaims, "My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!" In verse 19 he announces "the earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage"; yet when in judgment the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.

And now the prophet passes through another experience of which we are given the benefit. If it was sorrow a little while ago because of impending judgment, now it is praise because of the kingdom and glory. But all this new scene or era will be only brought about through judgment; and hence the prophet proceeds in chapters 27 to 36 to describe

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the process through which they will be led, and warns them that in their trial they should not go down into Egypt. But the interesting part, as connected with the prophet himself, is that the process is first communicated to him; he in his own soul travels through the great facts which he is appointed to announce. He is made, in a sense, experienced in all that will happen before he proclaims it; he is master of the story, and, like every skilful historian, he is practically connected with each transaction. It is of immense importance to the prophet to be so absolutely in mind in the scenes that he may describe them with living, personal interest; even as great historians have visited the scenes of great deeds, in order that they might catch up the sense and feelings of one actually engaged in them. A tale comes so differently from one who has been an actor in them, and from one who merely records it. No experience is more necessary or useful for a teacher than that he should be first personally affected by the truths which he preaches or announces.

We are now come to Sennacherib's invasion of Israel, where Hezekiah who represents the future remnant of Israel, is subjected to two trials, and is brought through two deliverances -- one outward, when he is saved from the Assyrian; and the other inward, when he is, so to speak, raised from the dead. The part which Isaiah had to act in these two trials is the subject before us. It is always the manner in which the servant acts which discloses the effect of the discipline which he has undergone. Every servant requires, and as he waits for it, receives, preparation for every coming service. He does not know the service for which he is being prepared. Were he to know it the tendency would be to make him think how to act, instead of being simply prepared of God. This is to be noted in the service of every one. There may be the most elaborate preparation for some particular service and it may be performed in a very orderly useful way, but it lacks the vitality which would mark it were the same person imbued with the mind of God, and thus suited for the service

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appointed him of God, though quite ignorant of the particular service for which he is being prepared. A true servant is like a garden which grows any kind of fruit desired by its owner. He does not know what will be required of him, but he is prepared for the demand on his services when it comes. I believe the lack in service arises from not being thus prepared; and the only discipline which effects this preparation is the word of God; the servant must be so occupied with it, so imbued by it, that he can act according to His mind when the demand comes.

It is most interesting and important for every servant to understand the mode and manner by which he is prepared for any or every service. The graver the nature of it, the greater the need for preparation. And, as I have said, one of the great peculiarities connected with this preparation is that the particular service is not divulged until we are ready for it. Orders indeed are given, but they are like the sealed orders given to the captain of a ship; and the reason of this is that the service itself may not occupy our thoughts and desires, as it naturally would, more than the power needed to perform it, in God's way, and according to His mind. I do not mean that I must be ignorant, for instance, of the subject on which I should speak, but I might think more of the subject than of the power of Christ, or of the force and unction which can only be acquired in His presence, and without which the greatest truth, delivered in the most perfect way, is deficient. When I am truly prepared, I am sure to be well up in my subject, because it is doubtless the staple of my service, and there is no preparation apart from it.

See the immense amount of truth communicated to the prophet Isaiah before he was called to any service, but he was not told the nature of the particular service for which he was being prepared. Abram was not told that Melchisedec's visit and blessing were to prepare him for the interview with, and offers of, the king of Sodom; but he was so well prepared by it that he was enabled positively to refuse everything from him, from a thread to a shoe-latchet.

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Moses is another example. He was detained forty days in the glory, primarily to learn the true and full form and appearance of the tabernacle, and also to get morally fitted for the great service he would be called to in consequence of Israel's idolatry; so that when he comes down and sees the apostasy of the people, however great and terrible the surprise was to him, he, without any confusion or hesitation, knows how to act; he is neither afraid of man, nor doubtful with God; he is prepared for the crisis, and perfectly assured in heart; he acts according to God, and takes the tabernacle and pitches it without the camp, afar off from the camp, apart from all the idolatries of the apostate people. Thus also was the apostle Paul prepared for service, and to be, as the Lord says to him, "A minister and a witness both of the things which thou host seen and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee". Even in the case of the vision shewn to Peter (Acts 10) he is impressed more with the mind and counsel of God than with any particular form of expression which he was to use to Cornelius. When truly and fully imbued with the mind of God, the manner and way of giving it out is in keeping with His mind.

Thus is it with Isaiah. Having been prepared of God by the communication of His mind about Israel, and about all the nations in connection with Israel, he is summoned now to act in this twofold trial to Hezekiah, who impersonates the remnant of Israel; and in the way he serves he exemplifies to us the true way of serving at such a juncture. The king sends to him; chapter 37. The servant of the Lord should be known as one. "So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah" to hear the mind of the Lord from him. And Isaiah said unto them, "Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land". Isaiah has no fear; the enemy

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seems a very small thing to him, because his soul is so full of the greatness and might of God; and this is the surest evidence that one has been near Him. The sickness unto death of Hezekiah was prior to the invasion of the Assyrian, and it will be helpful for us to see how Isaiah acts towards him in his first and personal trial, before we note his service to him in the second outward trial.

We read in chapter 38 that Isaiah came unto Hezekiah, sent of God, to announce to him that be must die and not live. What a discipline for Isaiah! As the guardian of the Lord's interests at the time, he must have rejoiced in the faithfulness of Hezekiah; but now all is to cease, and he is the one to announce a stroke, which practically must carry him in prospect into all the break-up and ruin of his people. In the prospect of Hezekiah's death, he is made to taste the end and dissolution of Israel. It is a needed discipline for a servant to enter into the end of everything of man. This qualifies him for his future testimony respecting Israel, when he cries, "Surely the people is grass", etc. The great instrument of restoration must fade away as a leaf.

Isaiah, having been subjected to this great sorrow, having practically entered into this tunnel, so necessary for every servant, in order really and in any measure fully to appreciate resurrection, is eventually enabled to tell Hezekiah the remedy to use in order that he might recover; chapter 38: 21. Thus when all hope is over, when the cold hand of death withers up everything, then breaks in a light to the darkness. Then deep conviction is wrought in the soul that there is a God that raiseth the dead. This was, to the heart of Isaiah, a real vision of his people. They were to die, to be cut off, as they now dispensationally are, and yet surely there will be a reviving of them again. Israel shall be restored.

Then there is the oppression from the adversary from without, which the king of Assyria represents in this history; and from this oppression Isaiah assures Hezekiah he shall be delivered; chapter 38: 6, 7. But this is not all.

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When Hezekiah prays against Sennacherib, Isaiah comes to him not only with assurance of deliverance, but accompanied with a very marked national favour. "And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards and eat the fruit thereof". And then it is added, "And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward: for out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this". Thus the prophet has not only been prepared of God for the unfolding of His mind for the services to which he was called, but he has to enter experimentally into the two trials which awaited his nation: one, the sinking down, even into death, because of inherent weakness; the other, complete captivity by the hand of the enemy. But these very trying experiences were needed in order to lead his heart into a true sense of the wonderful way in which God would effect this double deliverance for the nation of Israel. Of this Isaiah prophesies, and luxuriates in, from chapter 40 to the end of the book. To what wondrous prospects is he introduced! And though he could say that they were at that time vague and beyond all human comprehension, yet he had practically seen the manner and the reality of God's future ways to His people. It is not enough for the servant that he should be in secret prepared of God by the unfolding of His mind. Without that he is unable to comprehend things according to God; but besides this, he has to enter into the double trial here, even the death-weakness of man in himself, and the terrible power of the enemy, for it is only as the servant is practically sensible of these two, and has known the way of God's deliverance through and out of them, that he can in any adequate way speak of His kingdom, or talk of His power. In order to be qualified or ready to enter into and comprehend the scope and magnitude of God's future counsels, it is always necessary

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that the servant should have practically learned death here, and the ruin of everything because of Satan's power through man's fall; and then, as he learns the power of resurrection in God, through Christ, he is prepared and ready for the disclosures which God has prepared for them that love Him. Abraham was prepared for the great revelation respecting his future seed after he had learned practically to have no hope but in God who raiseth the dead. He had entered into the end of everything here, and now he is fit for the knowledge of the fact, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. There is great moral consistency in this fact, that no one is fit or ready for the future or prospective glory laid up for him who has not entered into the completeness of the ruin here through the combined action of man's weakness and Satan's power. So was it with Isaiah, and so was it, as we have seen, with Moses and Paul. However prepared they were to act for God, they had to learn these two great realities here -- the antagonism of the enemy without, and the utter weakness of man in himself, and how everything fails in his hand; so that Moses, in the deep sense of it, cries out, "Shew me thy glory". And Paul can say, "I desire to depart and be with Christ".


In the saddest and most eventful period of Israel's history Jeremiah was called to serve, and there is much in his history to be learned as to the character of vessel which the Lord uses in such a time, and the peculiar way in which He fits it for the mission assigned to it.

Jeremiah was of the priests of Anathoth of Benjamin; he was by birth and association connected with, we may say, the hierarchy of the time; and he is called to testify against what had been so near and dear to him. God chooses His own instruments, and it is evident that He pre-arranges everything concerning them, so that the whole

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of one's life here, even before birth, can be traced to His ordering. This is very interesting and wonderful. Hence it is said of Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations". It is remarkable that it is unto the nations, because almost all his prophecy relates to the fall and captivity of Israel, and the subjugation of the surrounding nations, with the assured hope of a bright future. The great and prevailing feeling of the instrument for this great service is, "I am a child". "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child". The sense of powerlessness avails nothing in itself, but when it is felt in the presence of the Lord's assured help, it casts the servant fully on Him, and He helps fully when He is leant on fully. Hence the Lord encourages him thus: "Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord". This embraces the servant's first great lesson in the school of God -- with the sense that I am but a child -- small in human strength, I have assured confidence that I can go wherever God sends me, and that I can speak what He has commanded me to speak.

The Lord consequently confers a gift on Jeremiah. He put forth His hand and touched his mouth, "And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth". Thus he gets his commission -- a most important epoch in a servant's history, just as was the gift to Timothy by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery; he gets the sense, that not only is he sent into this world as a light, but the definite nature of his service is communicated to him. So Jeremiah receives in figure a revelation from the Lord in relation to the nature and line of his ministry. It is interesting to note the peculiar and distinct way in which every servant is fitted or commissioned for his work. Here by two emblems Jeremiah is furnished with a divine base for his work -- by the almond rod, which set forth that the

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Lord will accomplish what He proposes, "I will hasten my word to perform it;" and by the seething pot, "the face thereof toward the north", shewing the afflicting nature of his testimony against Israel and the nations around. And now, established in heart and purpose, by these visions, the Lord warns him (verses 17 - 19) to gird up his loins and to be of good courage, "lest I confound thee before them". Jeremiah is thus made ready for his service, and hence in chapter 2 the mind of the Lord is revealed to him. The heart of the Lord touching the state of Israel is disclosed to him and it produces the effect on him which it ought to produce on Israel, as he tells in chapter 8: 18, to the end of chapter 9: 1. "When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me. Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!"

It is one of the finest traits in a servant's character to be acted on by the word of the Lord in the fullest and deepest way in which it ought to act on those whom it concerns. No discipline is more valuable to a servant, than that he should personally enter into the meaning and force of the mind of the Lord which he is called to communicate, and feel it as the Lord would have his hearers to be affected by it.

Then again, in chapter 10: 19 to end, he rather personates the repentant people. In the former chapters it is more his grief and dismay at the judgments of the Lord; here it is more the language and experience of one suffering under judgment.

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Now in the end of chapter 11 he is subjected to another experience. It is not now sorrow of heart because of the state of Israel, nor a sense of being under the judgment of God; it is now persecution, "I was like a lamb or an ox brought to the slaughter", so much so that he is made to feel the righteousness of the judgment upon them, and cries, "Let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause". This was persecution and of the bitterest kind, because it comes from his own people. Hence, "Thus saith the Lord of the men of Anathoth (his own country), that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the Lord, that thou die not by our hand: therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will punish them". It is very peculiar and interesting, the exercise the soul of the prophet passes through in connection with this persecution. It is not the ordinary persecution from the outwardly profane world, but his own people will not have him, but threaten him with death. It is the worst kind of persecution and that which marks this day. The most inveterate persecution of the hour is that which the faithful servant of God encounters now from "the men of Anathoth".

The meditations of Jeremiah consequent on this are in the beginning of chapter 12 to verse 4. In verses 5 and 6 be is admonished not to be surprised and overcome, for he is not to expect anything else. And then to verse 11 he is told the Lord's feelings respecting His heritage, but also His mercy if they repent.

I dwell on this part of the prophet's discipline because it is so like much that the servant of the Lord has to pass through in this day. No servant is fitted for the Lord's work but as he passes through exercise, not only as to how he feels things, but how they are in the mind of the Lord.

In chapter 13 the prophet is taught by means of a linen girdle, which he puts on him, and afterwards hides in the Euphrates in a hole in a rock, how the Lord feels about His people; and how as the girdle was marred, and profitable for nothing, in like manner should the people be when

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cast off. By this simple means is the servant educated in the Lord's mind about His people. It is interesting to see that it is not by verbal instructions simply that a servant is fitted for his work. However small in comparison, Jeremiah's feelings were about the girdle, when he had it on, when it was marred; yet in a distinct and real way he was thus shewn what Israel was to the Lord in their first state and in their fallen state. His sense of it may be very small in comparison to the Lord's, but the great point for the servant's usefulness, is that he has a real and true apprehension, however small, of what the Lord feels about His people under the various circumstances. However well instructed in the Word a servant may be, still he requires to be in circumstances to make him apprehend really the meaning of the truth which he propounds. The prison was as necessary for Paul in order to write the Epistle to the Ephesians, as a Patmos was for John to receive the Revelation. The truth, the diamond, requires a setting suited to itself.

Moses was forty years in the wilderness before he was sent to lead the children of Israel through it. Practically we all find that it is when we are shut off from the earth, and suffering from man's power here, that heaven opens most brightly to us; and again, it is as we are exiled by man, and a solitary one here, that we are able truly to appreciate the day when the kingdom of this world will be the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.

The peculiar power of a man of God -- a true servant -- is that he is not a mere channel like a gas pipe, but he can impart, in measure at least, the feelings of his Master, the words of which are given him. Surely it is this which gives power and effect to an evangelist. His heart is touched with the love of God to sinners; his conception of it may be small, but it is real; and according as it sensibly affects him, so is he qualified for his service.

Then there is another thing. When the servant in any measure, or rather according to his measure, enters into the mind of the Lord, in the words which He gives him to

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utter, he is not only a true representative, but he has divine sorrow when the word is refused; so that, there is both a feeling utterance in communicating it, and a deep sense of the frowardness of the heart of man in rejecting it. Hence Jeremiah says, "But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive".

Chapter 14. "The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth". The greatest mark of favour to a servant is, that his Lord should acquaint him with His mind as to present things and coming events, and thus fit him to hear the sad and terrible, as well as the bright and the pleasing. Many servants can work on when everything seems hopeful and prosperous, who become disheartened at the appearance of a cloud, or a reverse, like Mark at Pamphylia, or Demas. The great servant is the one to whom the Lord can confide the coming sorrows, and who through grace is prepared to meet them in the spirit of Christ. Thus Jeremiah was foretold of the dearth, and he shews that he was fit for the confidence reposed in him by the way he receives the communication. First, he is thwarted by false prophets, who feed and minister to the popular mind, unwilling to admit that judgment is impending upon them because of their departure from God. Nothing is so gratifying or delusive to the apostatising spirit as to be assured by men of great assumption, "Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place".

It is very interesting to note the varied exercise or discipline to which a servant is subjected and that each is necessary. It is not enough for Jeremiah to hear of the dearth; he must needs also encounter a religious opposition with regard to it from the false prophets; but having learned the Lord's mind about them, he in himself personates the state of feeling which the godly would have at the time, producing deep confession and earnest supplication.

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In chapter 15 we get some of the deep heart exercises which take place in the heart of a servant, placed in the times and circumstances of Jeremiah. First the Lord tells him, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people". Judgment must be executed, whereupon Jeremiah in verse 10 tells us how he feels. It is a good thing to feel the danger though not to give way to one's feelings and be led by them. Our blessed Lord could say, "the floods of ungodliness made me afraid". Sensibility is no injury to a servant, but an advantage, provided he is not swayed by it; but if he is, he sinks into self-consideration and cowardice. When a servant of Christ feels his isolated position, he has only to turn to God for succour, and this Jeremiah does in verse 15, and then he is cheered and encouraged, "Therefore thus saith the Lord, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall, and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee, for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the Lord".

In chapter 16 the prophet is to refuse all domestic happiness. "Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place". He must also keep separate from any social pleasures. "Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink". The true servant is always a sufferer. Every kind of personal comfort and happiness must be refused in the place where the Lord's name is dishonoured. One cannot be too exclusive or self-denying. How various is the discipline necessary for a servant in a time when the people of the Lord have departed from their true standing and are in practical indifference to their state and the Lord's judgment of them. Jeremiah in verse 19 finds his comfort and refuge in the Lord: "Oh Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction".

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And in chapter 17, when he predicts the captivity of Judah, and the curse of God for trusting in man, while he turns to God for himself (verse 14), he encounters the bitter taunts of the mockers in verses 15, 16, which drive him more earnestly to the Lord, as we see in verses 17, 18. All this exercise only prepares him for being sent on a special mission. How little we understand the way a servant is prepared of God for the work to which He appoints him! Surely no servant can study and follow in heart the experiences of Jeremiah without being comforted and helped at the varied grace shewn to one naturally so timid and sensitive.

In chapter 18 he is sent down to the potter's house to get a simple illustration of the present and future of Israel -- the marred vessel to be set aside, and another to be made. The prophet is then sent to testify to the people, but this excites their enmity and they devise devices against him, so much so that he, afflicted by their evil, regards them as God's enemies and invokes unsparing judgment on them.

The Lord grant that each of His servants in this day, when His people are so like the vessel marred in the hands of the potter, may be under His training hand, like Jeremiah, and thus fulfil efficiently the ministry to which He has called them.

It is a deeply anxious and suffering moment with the prophet when he has to announce the break-up of all that bears the name of the Lord upon the earth. Jeremiah is required to do so in a very plain significant manner; he is desired to go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests, and go into the valley of the son of Hinnom, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee. "And thou shalt break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee, and shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; Even so will I break this people, and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again; and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury. Thus will I do unto this place, saith the Lord".

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There is something singularly effective in this act of the prophet. No one could mistake the meaning of the terrible announcement; the simplicity and distinctness in the mode of announcing it, and the unpopular, exclusive position in which it placed the prophet, draw largely upon one's sympathies, as depicting the sufferings of the faithful servant, within the circle of God's people, where every disparagement affects him in a twofold way: one, as reflecting on his service, indicating lack in it, and the other more naturally, because they were so closely related to himself. How often has a servant, when unable to bear the tax on his patience by the perverseness of those within, turned to a more outward service and occupied himself more with evangelical work. A man's greatness in every virtue is most tried, and therefore best displayed where he is most at home, or rather where every one may, with most freedom, act independently of him. The man that is proof to the petty and constant demands on his temper and grace in private life, in the circle where every one is most at home with him, is well able for every other.

Chapter 20. Jeremiah now suffers outward persecution. Pashur, the priest, the chief governor in the house of the Lord, smote him and put him in the stocks; and there he was exposed to the scorn of the people, who ought to have respected him as sent of God.

It is not merely the bodily suffering which so afflicts a servant of God under persecution, it is the sense of the triumph of wrong over right, he being subjected to reproach undeservedly. Nothing is so afflicting as injustice. There is hardly any one, even down to the youngest child, who is not wounded, often incurably, by unjust punishment. "They rewarded me evil for good", was one of the deep sufferings of our Lord, and the higher and the greater the good, the more does evil afflict. Thus we are told two things respecting Jeremiah; one, how the Lord will avenge him and punish Pashur. Woe unto any one who persecutes or injures the man of God. "Cursed be he that curseth thee". The Lord will reward him according

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to his works. This is distinctly communicated as the purpose of God; yet on the other hand, Jeremiah has his own internal distress, as a man appointed to the painful service of announcing sorrow and judgment on what was cherished and held sacred. But in the history of the Lord's discipline of His servant, the moments of weakness and failure must be recorded as well as those of strength and vigour. Here we see the former in Jeremiah. He reproaches the Lord because he has been subjected to suffering for announcing the truth, instead of being accepted as a prophet and held in honour. This was too much for his faith: "O Lord, thou hast deceived me", he says. The servant sometimes passes through this kind of darkness in his own heart, and so deep is his distress that he even says, "Cursed be the day that I was born". There is hardly any humiliation so acute as the feeling of the worthlessness of one's existence, and yet all this suffering prepares the servant for being more simply and unreservedly for the Lord. In the midst of it he can say, "Sing unto the Lord: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers".

Hence, in the next chapter (21) Zedekiah sends to Jeremiah to inquire what is the mind of the Lord about the war that Nebuchadnezzar waged against him. He is now acknowledged as a prophet of the Lord; he was humbled, he is now exalted, and he can announce the nature of the siege, and the only true way to escape from it. Great and wondrous privilege for the true servant of God! And what vicissitudes he has to pass through! At one time, cast down and an object of reproach and ridicule: and at another, waited on as the only expositor of the mind of the Lord.

In the next chapter (22) there is an addition to this. Jeremiah is sent to the king of Judah. It is very encouraging to see how the Lord raises up and confides in the servant who is faithful at such a crisis. Everything is about to crumble to pieces; and the occupiers of the place of privilege in that day, as in this day, like to be buoyed up

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with the idea that things are not going to pieces. Jeremiah is most unpopular because he insists that all will be broken up; and that there is no escape, even for life, but in yielding to the judgment and submitting to captivity. What a course of discipline was required to make one of the priests of Israel, as Jeremiah was, press on the people the hopelessness of remaining in Jerusalem; and that no safety could be accorded but in becoming captive to the king of Assyria. It is in principle what the true servant has to insist on in this day as to the church, that there is no ecclesiastical position -- no positional power, as there was in the early days of the church; the true remnant as captives own the place of captivity. But the servant who can faithfully press this on others must be one who has practically accepted it for himself. How little we know the exercises which the servant, once full of hope touching the testimony on earth, like a Simeon or a Stephen, has to go through! What a mount Moriah he has to ascend ere he reaches the bright side of the morning without clouds -- the day of His power, when captivity is captive led.

In chapter 23 Jeremiah is instructed respecting the false prophets who deceive the people with the assurance that they shall have peace. Thus it is with the Laodicean teachers, who buoy up souls with the idea that they have need of nothing; a sure sign that Christ is not the object of their pursuit, because if He were, they would never think they had enough. The more He satisfies the heart, the more it presses on to know Him better, and to give up all for Him. It is ever and anon, "For whom I suffer the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ".

In chapter 24 two baskets of figs are shewn to Jeremiah, "One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad". This is to teach him that there is nothing neutral with God. Either the figs are good, and very good, or so bad that they cannot be eaten; and these prefigure the two classes of people:

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those who go into captivity are the first class, and those that remain in the land, or those that dwell in the land of Egypt, are of the second.

In chapter 25 Jeremiah foretells the seventy years' captivity.

In chapter 26: 8 the priests and prophets and all the people took him, saying, "Thou shalt surely die"; but the princes and all the people having heard Jeremiah's defence, pronounce, "This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God". (verse 16.) The case of Micah is urged in his favour, and the case of Urijah against him. "Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death". How absolutely a man must be for the Lord, and how entirely separated from every hope here, when he has, like Stephen, to stand for the Lord against His own people unto death! It puts the servant in immense distinctness, as entirely for the Lord, and separated from man while serving.

In chapter 27 Jeremiah is continued in service; and he is desired to represent in himself the condition to which the nations will be reduced. "Thus saith the Lord to me: Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck". Nothing marks a true servant, and one really taught of God, more than the pliancy and readiness with which he can pass from one service to another. It is always the mark of an indifferent servant when he excuses himself from answering a call for help by saying it is not in his line; or that it is not part of his work; he rightly may not obtrude his service when he has not power to serve; but it is quite another thing to escape from service on the plea that it is not my work. The simple question is, whether the Lord has called me to it or not. Jeremiah can address himself to whatever the Lord tells him to do. Hananiah the false prophet attempts to nullify and contradict his words, and Jeremiah pronounces the judgment of the Lord upon him. "Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto

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Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month".

In chapter 28 Jeremiah has to encounter the false prophecy of Hananiah, spoken to him in the fifth month "in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the Lord's house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon: and I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, saith the Lord: for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon".

It is a most trying, anxious moment, when a servant is opposed by a false teacher who commands the sympathies of the people, who with arrogant assumption panders to their carnal hopes, so that the servant of the Lord is reduced to the most isolated position toward those whom he would serve in his testimony.

From verse 6 to verse 9 Jeremiah states the test of a true prophet of peace. But when Hananiah took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck, and brake it, and said in presence of all the people, "Thus saith the Lord; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years;" then the prophet Jeremiah went his way. It is always wise to accept the lowest place, even in the Lord's service, and to be as the one beaten, just as Jeremiah here retires in silence.

But subsequently, "the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, saying, Go and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou

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shalt make for them yokes of iron". "Hear now, Hananiah; The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord". Thus it is when we retire in self-abasement, and as reduced by man, then the Lord makes known His mind to us, and the opposer is confounded. "So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month".

In chapter 29 we have, "the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon -- after that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the chamberlains the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem". We have the word of the Lord to all those of the captivity whom He had sent from Jerusalem to Babylon, and also verses 24 - 32, what the Lord of hosts spake and would do to Shemaiah, the Nehelamite, "because he hath taught rebellion against the Lord".

In chapter 30 Jeremiah is directed by the Lord God of Israel, "Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book". In chapter 32, Jeremiah being shut up by Zedekiah in the court of the prison, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, "Behold, Hanameel, the son of Shallum thine uncle, shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it".

In buying this field, when he was assured that all was passing away into the hands of the king of Babylon, Jeremiah believed God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. He against hope believed in hope (Romans 4:17, 18), and could thus in a moment of the greatest depression and hopelessness reckon with the Lord of hosts,

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the God of Israel. "Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land".

In a prison, deprived of liberty by man's coercion, sensible of terrible ruin, impending and inevitable, he is led by the word of God to see in a future day all the present misery ended and a full blessed restitution of all things.

He insists on the present ruin as inevitable, but he is called to see in faith the day of restoration.

Now before Jeremiah can rise to simple faith and find enjoyment in the future thus presented to him, he has to pray to the Lord concerning it. (verses 17 - 25.) It is very important to note this, that the mere communication of the word, however distinctly conveyed or received, is not enough. The servant requires to wait on God about it, as Jeremiah does from verses 16 to 25. Then in verse 26, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me?" The Lord explains His purposes to him, even the present utter destruction of Jerusalem, but also the future restoration of His people. "Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury and in great wrath; and I will bring them again into this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God". Then, in verse 41, we read, "Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul"

The servant has to press inevitable uncompromising destruction, where there is self-reliance, self-dependence, and the assumption of being able to retain by human tenacity the position that has been given of God. Then there must be unsparing judgment, but on the other hand, there will be a full restoration, a complete restitution out of the wreck.

In chapter 34, when the king of Babylon and all his army have fought against Jerusalem, Jeremiah is sent to say to king Zedekiah, that the city shall be given into the hand of

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the king of Babylon, but that his life should be preserved.

It is worthy of note that the servant is taught to temper judgment with mercy.

It is a most serious thing and entails the severest judgment when we sin against our convictions. This is just what Zedekiah now fell into. The king had made a covenant with all the people to enforce the divine rule, and keep the sabbatical year, "That every man should let his man-servant, and every man his maid-servant, an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free, that none should serve himself of them, of a Jew his brother". And all the people at first consented and obeyed, admitting the right and truth of it, but afterwards they regretted the sacrifice which it entailed, and resumed possession of the servants that they had let go free. Thus their immediate acts justify the heavy retribution which now Jeremiah pronounces upon them as detailed in the end of this chapter.

Chapter 35. Jeremiah learns from the fidelity of the Rechabites to the commandment of their father, how children can be faithful to their father in nature, and yet the children of Israel have not hearkened to their God. Faithfulness to any rightful claim entails blessing here; hence "Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever".

Chapter 36. We are recalled to what occurred some eighteen years previously to chapter 34. This word then came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, "Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee.... It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them, that they may return every man from his evil way".

It is very interesting to note the reason, and occasions, for committing to writing the oral communications of the prophets. We gather from Moses, in Deuteronomy 32, that the reason for writing this song, and teaching it to the children of Israel, putting it into their mouths, was, "that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel" -- a record of God's patient and faithful care of

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His people. In Jeremiah it is to awaken the people. In Luke it is to set forth a declaration that "Thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed". With John it is, "These things are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, ye might have life through his name;" or as in his epistle, "That ye may know that ye have eternal life, who believe on the name of the Son of God". With Paul it is to correct or check errors, or to communicate truth, as to Ephesus, when he was shut up in prison. Now this book was burnt by the king, when Jehudi had read three or four leaves. (verses 22 - 26.) "Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, Thus saith the Lord, Thou hast burned this roll ... Therefore thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David", etc. (See verses 30 - 32.)

Chapter 37. Zedekiah, Josiah's son, succeeds Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, made king in the land of Judah; but neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the Lord which He spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

The king sends to Jeremiah, saying, "Pray now unto the Lord our God for us". Pharaoh's army had come out of Egypt, and the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem, having heard tidings of them, had departed from Jerusalem. "Then came the word of the Lord unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire".

Now in verse 11 a very remarkable thing occurs, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem, for fear of Pharaoh's army, then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to slip away (margin) thence in the midst of the people. Because of his faith in the word of the Lord which he had

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announced, he fears to stay in the city, but this is misunderstood by the princes of the people, who, crediting the charge of the captain of the ward that he was falling away to the Chaldeans, were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe.

The servant exposes himself to the enemy when he seeks his own safety. Jeremiah was better off when he continued at his post than when he retired for security. He remained in the dungeon many days; "Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out, and asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the Lord?"

When there is any conscience, there may be a craving to hear the word of the Lord, though there is not purpose of heart to obey it, yet there is disquietude of heart because of it. Then, when Jeremiah entreats not to return to Jonathan's house, lest he die there, Zedekiah the king commanded that they should "commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison".

Chapter 38. Jeremiah had not a long reprieve, for the princes instigated the king against him that he should be put to death. And the king yielding, "Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into a dungeon. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire". Jeremiah in a double way is taught how vain is the help of man. His own efforts to escape had exposed him to the calumny of his enemies, and now the king, who had just listened to his words, and at his request had mitigated his imprisonment, allows him at the word of the princes to be consigned to a terrible dungeon. Here the Lord interferes for him through the Ethiopian Ebed-melech. It is most blessed and encouraging to mark the unexpected instruments which are used of the Lord for the help and succour of His servants in trial. Jeremiah is to all human appearances without any prospect before him but a

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painful lingering death, when Ebed-melech begs the king to permit him to rescue the prophet. This new suffering, so peculiarly afflicting to an Israelite, whose hopes were so connected with the earth, prepares Jeremiah for the great services that are now before him. He enters upon them as one risen from the dead, or at least as one who had come to the termination of everything of man's side. "He abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken".

Chapter 39: 2. "In the eleventh year of Zedekiah the city was broken up". After years of patience and personal suffering the words of Jeremiah are fulfilled. Nebuchadrezzar now befriends him. The king of Babylon "gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard, saying, Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee". (verses 11, 12.) So the captain of the guard and all the princes sent and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedaliah, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people. (See also verses 15 - 18.)

Chapter 40. He is loosed from his chains and let go. Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah to Mizpah, and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land. He connects himself with the poor remnant left in the land under the governor the king of Babylon set over the cities of Judah.

Chapter 41. A new and great experience is now entered on by Jeremiah. He had connected himself with the remnant left in the land, but in consequence of the treachery of Ishmael, who slew all the Jews that were with him and the Chaldeans, and all the remnant of the people who had been recovered from Ishmael, departed (verse 17) and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham to go to enter into Egypt, because they were afraid of the Chaldeans. Then they come to Jeremiah (chapter 42: 2) and say, "Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this

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remnant, that he may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do". Jeremiah replies, "I will pray unto the Lord your God according to your words; and whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare unto you". After ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, and he tells them, "If ye will still abide in this land, then I will build you, and plant you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. But if ye will say No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor have hunger for bread, etc. Then the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you, and there ye shall die". The Lord's mind is thus declared to them by Jeremiah, but the result is that they refuse to accept it, as they had undertaken to do (verses 5, 6), and it is thus proved that they had "dissembled in their hearts", when they had asked Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord for them. (verse 20.) The "proud men" reply, "Thou speakest falsely". So they came into the land of Egypt, for they obeyed not the voice of the Lord; chapter 43. Then came the word of the Lord to Jeremiah, "Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brick-kiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah; and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them".

The attempt of unbelief to escape the difficulties in the path of obedience always entails the same kind of difficulty in an aggravated form. As it was fear of Nebuchadnezzar induced them to disobey the voice of the Lord, and go down into Egypt, so should Nebuchadnezzar reach them there, and array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment.

Chapter 44. Jeremiah is instructed as to the judgment which would fall on the remnant that in heart cling to Egypt.

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It is not easy to measure the sorrow and disappointment of a servant like Jeremiah, who had for many years watched over and warned the people of God of coming judgment, now to find himself removed from Jerusalem and associated in Egypt with the once happy remnant, and there to have to announce to them a greater judgment than even at Jerusalem. A most painful experience for the servant to live long enough to see the break-down of the work he had so earnestly sought to build up. Thus Stephen saw the break-up of Israel. Paul the break-up of the church, as the one faithful company for Christ on earth.

The effect on Baruch we see in the next chapter (45): when he had written this book at the mouth of Jeremiah he had said, "Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest". Now the words which Jeremiah had spake to Baruch set forth the mind in which he must walk himself. "Thus shalt thou say unto him, The Lord saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord; but thy life will I give thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest".

And hence his testimony closes with prophetic notices of the judgment of Egypt, the Philistines, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, Elam, and Babylon -- save that afterwards shall Egypt be inhabited as in the days of old, saith the Lord, and He will bring again the captivity of Moab, in the latter days, and in the latter days will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the Lord.

Chapters 50 and 51 is the word that the Lord spake against Babylon, and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet. And so Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon. "And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words; then shalt thou say, O Lord, thou hast spoken against this place, to

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cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever. And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates: and thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the judgment that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary"; chapter 51: 60 - 64.

"Thus far are the words of Jeremiah". A very fitting close to his long and faithful testimony.


Ezekiel is a priest. His position among the captives by the river of Chebar prepared him for the grace of God. He says, "The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God". The servant must needs be placed in circumstances here which will fit him the better for appreciating the favour of God, as entirely outside and apart from all here. He is shewn the glory retiring from the earth, because of the wickedness of the professed people of God; and yet, in the brightest spot of the retiring glory, there is the figure of a man, indicating that though the glory leaves the earth because of man's wickedness, yet that man will be in the brightest place of the glory.

Chapter 2: Ezekiel, having seen the ways of God in the light of glory, is now directed -- "Stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee". He there receives his commission. The Lord acquaints him with the nature of the people, but warns him not to be like them: "Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee". Chapter 3: "So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. It was in my mouth as honey for sweetness". And then he is sent to speak unto the house of Israel. It is impressed on him that he is sent; he is not to fear, "I have made thy face strong against their faces;" but in addition he is warned to "receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears, all

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my words". it is of the last importance that the servant should be the practical exponent of the truth he presses on others; and he must speak on, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear. It is very remarkable the way he is in his ministry, as set forth in the next three verses. "Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place. So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me". (verses 12 - 14.) Wondrous and gracious preparation for the line of service appointed to him! After he had reached Tel-abib, where were the captivity that dwelt by the river of Chebar, he tells us (verse 15), "I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days". The servant may go to the right place, and still have to wait for the word of the Lord. Verse 16: "It came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me". The prophet is appointed now to an important service, and in verse 22 we read, "And the hand of the Lord was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee". It is interesting to note the gradual way in which the servant is prepared; and that it is not by any foreknown system, or by any way which man could devise or discover. Ezekiel goes forth into the plain: and, "behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face". This is the preparation for the wondrous and trying exercise of patient suffering which he must bear in his service. In chapter 4 Ezekiel is told "Take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and portray upon it the city, even Jerusalem, and lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mound against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about. Moreover take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron

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between thee and the city: and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel". The servant has to do with realities, though in a very limited measure to what it would be actually, yet it must in some degree be practically entered into by him. There is such a different tone and force about one who has learned in the circumstances from that of the one who has only heard of them, though in the fullest way. It is the difference between the witness and the historian.

Ezekiel has now to undergo and to be made acquainted with the sufferings of Israel and Judah in the siege; he must personally feel it. Even though it be but a day for a year, three hundred and ninety days he must be on his left side. "So shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year".

He must also eat bread by weight and drink water by measure, even with the sense of the greatest degradation to a man in nature. How differently would every servant enter and pursue his service had he beforehand entered into even partially, but truly, in his own soul the condition of things of which he speaks or seeks to correct. It is never, I suppose, possible to warn souls truly of evils which one has not through grace combated. Be it either like a bird on wing, that has not been caught by the net, or one who has been delivered out of the snare of the fowler, we learn like Peter: "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren".

Chapter 5. Ezekiel is now to pass through a new experience. His personal appearance is to suffer. The partial cutting off of his hair and dividing it by weight is to express the measure and state of the remnant, a few in number, "Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts. Then take of them again, and cast them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire;

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for thereof shall a fire come forth into all the house of Israel". The servant is sensibly to enter into, in his own person, the scattered, ruined condition of the people of God. It is not the mourning dress after the sorrow, but the whole manner and appearance indicative of the affliction of which he in himself personally testifies. Paul exhibits in his manner of life the vicissitudes and sufferings which the heavenly walk here entails. He has nothing for the human eye to see, and yet he possesses everything for the comfort and cheer of heart of the spiritual.

In chapters 6 and 7 the prophet gets the word of the Lord respecting the judgment that will fall on the people. It is foretold to him how the Lord will deal with them, and how grievous is their course in His mind. It is thus the servant is rightly or duly impressed with man's evil. He only knows it rightly when the Lord has spoken to him His mind about it. Now in chapter 8 the prophet is made in visions to be an eye-witness of the varied abominations committed at Jerusalem. The Man in glory puts forth His hand, and "took me by a lock of mine head", and he was brought to Jerusalem. The discipline of a servant who is called upon to announce judgment is very peculiar and personally severe. He must not only know the mind of God respecting the evil, but he must be well and clearly instructed in the manner and way of the evil against which the judgment is levelled. Yet he must be entirely apart from complicity with it. First, verse 5, he is called to "lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north ... and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry". Secondly, verse 7, "he brought me to the door of the court ... and he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about". The secret evil is disclosed. This terrible state of things had occurred through ancients of the people, who were leavened by the most pernicious opinions. "The Lord seeth

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us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth". In verse 14 is the third abomination. "Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz". It is not only the mind and opinions that are polluted, but the affections: every element of the nation was defiled and idolatrous.

In verse 16 is the fourth. "And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house, and behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east".

To the prophet these four secret and inveterate abominations are disclosed, and in chapter 9 he is shewn the execution of the judgment. But prior to it, or concurrent with it, and of chief importance, is setting a mark on those who in sorrow of heart are far from the evil of the day: "Those that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof". To the man of God the judgment of God's people is always a distress; hence, "it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?"

Now in chapter 10 quite a different experience is vouchsafed to him. It is the sight of the glory of God; a sorrowful sight in one respect, because it is leaving the house, leaving the earth, but cheering to the man of God in another aspect, because the ways and purposes (which "the wheels" are in figure) are predetermined and assured. The form of a man's hand was under the wings of the cherubim. A Man will yet act in the glory of God. Nothing cheers the heart of the true servant in times of failure so much as a clear sight of the glory of God, as Moses said when the failure of Israel oppressed his spirit, "O Lord, shew me thy glory". And thus Stephen was shewn the glory brought in and assured for ever in the

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Man Christ Jesus, when the evil of Israel was consummated in rejecting Him as king in glory. It is a fine preparation for suffering, service and testimony here. But not only this, in chapter 11 we read, "The spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the Lord's house", that he might witness the public teachings of the leaders of Israel which say, "It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the cauldron, and we be the flesh". He is directed to prophesy; "and it came to pass, when I prophesied, Pelatiah son of Benaiah died". The very sight and example of judgment greatly affects the prophet; the man of God, however he may proclaim judgment, because of the holiness of God, is always deeply affected when it falls on even one; as he says, "Then fell I down upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?" He is then comforted by a communication of God of future mercy to Israel. The glory of God leaves the city, and Ezekiel returns to the captivity, and spake unto them all the things that the Lord had shewn him. All the previous discipline was to fit the prophet for communicating the mind of the Lord to the captivity.

And now in chapter 12 he is to be passed through another experience, because of the state of the people. He is to be a sign to the house of Israel. "And I did so as I was commanded: I brought forth my stuff by day, as stuff for captivity, and in the even I digged through the wall with mine hand; I brought it forth in the twilight, and I bare it upon my shoulder in their sight". A wonderful thing for the prophet to say that he is the sign, as Paul in another day could say, "We are ensamples unto you to follow us". He shews that in himself personally he suffers the sorrows of the judgment which is impending, and of which he warns them. And still more, the word of the Lord comes to him, saying, "Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with trembling and with carefulness; and say unto the people of the land, Thus saith the Lord God of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of

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the land of Israel; They shall eat their bread with carefulness, and drink their water with astonishment, that her land may be desolate from all that is therein, because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall know that I am the LORD".

It is a great encouragement that the "same afflictions are accomplished in our brethren that are in the world"; that the servant of God in other days suffered as we do now. Ezekiel had to contend with the same unbelieving spirit in his day as we have in our day. If they say in this day, "Where is the promise of his coming?" they said in that day, "The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth", chapter 12: 22. The less the natural man can see of the purpose and ways of God, the more the spiritual man is simply cast on the word of God and assured by it in faith. Hence the answer to this infidel taunt is, "The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision". To make this true to the prophet, the word of the Lord comes to him again, and he is desired to say unto the house of Israel, "There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God". Now follows a very important and trying service, the most so I might say in this day. It is to expose the false teachers, man and woman, among the people of God. A particular discipline prepares for a particular service, and the only way to be qualified to rebut and confute the false teachings of the hour is the simple fact that the day of Christ is coming; that man's hopes are all vain. Chapter 13 instructs the servant in the mind of the Lord concerning these false prophets. And here there are great principles for our help and guidance. This building with untempered mortar will eventually crumble to pieces. The servant must learn in patience to possess his soul; one of the great characteristics of his being in divine power is the patience with which he can wait for the Lord's own time, knowing that the long-suffering of the Lord is salvation. "He that believeth shall not make

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haste". When I am truly assured that I am in the Lord's mind, and that He is at my right hand, I can wait patiently on Him, and I can rest assured that He will bring it to pass. Ezekiel is placed in the greatest divine honour for a servant on earth -- even to be a light for God here; this is the true place of the Lord's servant and prophet.

Chapter 14. "Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me". Surely one should gladly submit to any discipline in order that one might be qualified for so great service. How blessed if any of us were fitted of God to be the expositor of His mind in this evil day, so that the leaders of earthly religion should turn to us for light and instruction; and inasmuch as any of us are for Christ here, we are prepared, and set by Him, however little recognised, for this end. It is not discipline now so much with Ezekiel as education: discipline prepares for education; hence it is interesting and helpful to note the time and order of education.

In chapter 15 Israel is the vine-tree; nothing in itself naturally, yet it was the emblem of God's people on the earth to delight the heart of God and man. When the vine took its place among other trees it was nothing; "how much less shall it be meet yet for any work, when the fire hath devoured it?" for God "will set his face against them".

Chapter 16 is a review of all God's ways in grace to Israel, and details how wickedly they had turned out: hence it is said to the prophet, "Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations". It is very necessary that the servant should not only see the judgment of God on the vine-tree -- God's professed people -- but that he should clearly and distinctly set before them their fall and departure from the place and condition in which God had set them. So is it now. Perhaps there is a deficiency in our ministry on this head; namely, that we do not sufficiently "cause Jerusalem to know her abominations". A servant is never able to expose with point and vigour the declension of others, unless he has been preserved or rescued from that declension himself.

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From this to the end of chapter 39 the prophet is not only educated in the mind of God regarding all the nations in connection with Israel, but to him is declared the counsel of God. And now after this vast range of judgment being declared to him he can wind up with the gracious tidings of the blessed God. "I will set my glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them.... Neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God". And finally he is shewn in vision the establishment of God's sanctuary in the midst of His people (chapters 40 - 48), a cheering and blessed close to his education as a servant and prophet of God.


The first notice we get of Paul, then called Saul, is at the stoning of Stephen. "The witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul". Paul refers to this afterwards (Acts 22:20): "And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him". The prominence he gives to this, indicates the greatness of the change wrought in him through grace. The more truly any one is in the life and spirit of Christ, the more thoroughly is he a contrast to what he was in natural religion, "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them". It is the religious aim which so peculiarly betrays the nature of the enmity of the natural mind against God; and it is here where the mind of Christ is most distinctly expressed in contrast to it. I suppose that in nothing is the enmity of the natural mind against God so disclosed as in religion. Man in his endeavour to establish his own righteousness has not submitted himself to the righteousness of God. Hence the respectable Pharisee was farther from God

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than the publican, the outcast of society. The Lord tells His disciples, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service", John 16:2. The more man embraces the idea that, like Cain, he can remove the distance between himself and God, the more he hates God's way of removing the distance. Therefore Cain "slew his brother ... because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous". Hence we are warned of those who go in the way of Cain. No one would for a moment suppose that a wicked man could claim any countenance from God; but the religious man, like the young man in the gospel, would sorrowfully give up Christ rather than take up his cross and follow Him.

It is important to bear in mind the condition of a soul before conversion. Paul tells us that he lived in all good conscience to that day. He had no sense of sin, because he had not openly broken the law; and the more he vaunted in his moral excellence, the more he depreciated and opposed the teaching that salvation was through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. Saul must have heard Stephen's defence; but the more the light of Christianity came before him, the more his self-righteousness was assailed, the more incensed he was, and the more determined was his resistance.

Thus was it with Saul, for the next time we hear of him his opposition is at its height. "And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem", Acts 9:1, 2. In his rage he leaves the land and journeys to Damascus -- a strange city. It is deeply affecting to mark the course of "the chief of sinners" at this moment. He is on his way to Damascus breathing out cruelty, intolerant in his purpose to waste the church of God. Who could form any adequate idea of Saul's rage against Christ at this crisis?

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The will of the human heart in self-righteousness has culminated to the utmost; and then, when the religious man is at his worst, in opposition to God's chief interest -- at this moment, the grace of God shines forth in all its brightest lustre. A light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shines round about him; not the light of the glory to demand righteousness, but the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, to disclose to the "chief of sinners", in the height of his wilfulness, that he has a Saviour in the glory of God. The self-righteous man has no place before the glory of God; he falls to the ground, and then hears the voice of the Son of God, in the ever memorable words, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest". Surely no one could describe the moral revolution which is now at work in Saul's soul; his vaunted religiousness all goes for nothing. He falls to the ground before the light of God's glory; and yet in that very light his ears are opened to hear that the selfsame Jesus, who was the life and the rest of Stephen, to whose death he had consented because of his faith in Christ, is his own Saviour and that, religious and morally upright man as he was, the great aim of his life had been to persecute him through His members here on earth; for now was divulged the secret that Christ's body was on the earth. Thus Saul, whose conduct was most exemplary, as far as the natural conscience could see, and though he had not done any moral wrong by which he would have seen the corruption of his heart, now discovers himself to be the chief of sinners, because he had wrought diametrically opposite to God's will, and by every means in his power, in contravention to the chief interest and will of God at this time. What a humiliation to the self-righteous Pharisee! If the best conducted man is the chief of sinners, surely it is easy to say, "In me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing". Surely such an one does not require to learn by transgression the evil of his nature, when by his will, and not by breach of the law, he is condemned as the chief of sinners.

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May our hearts be able to follow him into the region of light into which he now enters; he is sensibly blind to everything in this world; existing in it, but with no ability to apprehend or enjoy anything in it, excluded from everything here by the "glory of that light" -- he spends three days "without sight, and neither did eat nor drink". It is deeply interesting to us to trace the course of education which this great servant is brought through, and to bear in mind that the same grace is for us as for him. We can form some idea of the exercise of soul which he passed through during those three days. We all, in our measure, pass through a like experience when the heart is exclusively occupied with our Paschal Lamb; when shut in under the shelter of His blood, we appropriate, to our intense relief, what He bore in His death, as Israel ate the lamb, roast with fire and with bitter herbs. To Paul were concentrated in those days the exercises which are often spread over years of our lives; so intense was the hold on his heart that his very bodily necessities are forgotten -- he neither did eat nor drink. At length the exercise is over; he scales the height to which the work of Christ entitles him; he is accepted; he prays; he is in the day of salvation, now is the accepted time. The proof that one is in the accepted time is that he prays. "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found". Ananias is now sent to fit him for this new sphere. He comes and says to him, "Receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost". Saul is now in divine power, able to enjoy his Saviour in the glory of God; and forthwith he goes into the synagogue, and preaches that Jesus is the Son of God -- the first time I suppose that this great truth was so fully presented. This ends what I may call the first chapter in this eventful history.

After this public declaration in the synagogue, that Jesus is the Son of God -- the great source and pivot of the present ministry -- it appears that Saul went into Arabia for two years; Galatians 1:17. It had pleased God to reveal His

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Son in him, and from this Person, outside and above every one, he derives everything. In general we are not sufficiently conscious that He is Son of God, we believe it but we do not realise it, and yet it is only as we apprehend Him in the dignity of His Person that we apprehend the divine nature of either our position or our state. Believing on the Son of God, I am consciously a living stone. "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself" (1 John 5:5, 10); and to this all ministry tends -- "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man", etc. I have dwelt long on this because the greater the knowledge committed to a servant, the more necessary and important is it that he should be much alone with God about it, in order that he may realise the nature and effect of it on himself before he undertakes to make it known to others. This rumination is of the deepest importance. We have no clue to the way in which Saul spent these two years in the isolated region of Arabia, but we can apprehend and learn from it the nature and effect of such a discipline. It rebukes the haste and readiness with which many now enter on the ministry, attempting to impress others with a measure of the truth which they have not proved for themselves. Surely the servant should ever be able to say: "I have believed and therefore have I spoken". The Joshua -- the Spirit of Christ -- is always the leader now; or, as it was with Moses forty years in the wilderness before he was called to lead Israel through it. It is sometimes thought that it would be a loss of time if a servant were to spend two years in solitude before entering on public service. Evidently the Lord did not think so with respect to Saul, even though the exigencies of the time were very great, and there was great need of his services. It is better to lose time as to work in preparing for service than to lose time in repairing one's mistakes in undertaking a work for which one is not competent.

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Saul afterwards returns to Damascus, and he was so fervent and faithful to the Lord, that the Jews watched the gates of the city day and night to kill him. The governor Aretas joined the Jews in their wicked purpose. Thus it is, that all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. The more you are for the Lord, the more will the enmity of man be armed against you. The self-righteous Jew, nominally the people of God, and the power of the world in heathen darkness, combine together to destroy the light of God, and the man in whom it shines. He escapes from Damascus in a most humiliating way, a great contrast to the way he had journeyed to it a few years since; and now he proceeds to Jerusalem. In his solitude in Arabia he was confirmed in "the mark" -- the goal where Christ is, and he has also tasted in his own person the bitter hatred of man to the exalted Christ.

Thus prepared in mind and practice he goes to Jerusalem to see Peter; Galatians 1:18. There he was subjected to very peculiar discipline. He had doubtless come, as we can easily conceive, with a longing to see Peter, and to be with the assembly, at Jerusalem; but the disciples were all afraid of him; Acts 9:26. What a check and pain to him! He who was called to be a master builder in the temple of God must experience in himself the godly jealousy which hesitated to receive him. He had to be commended. Barnabas effects this happy service for him. He had come to Jerusalem the very opposite to the accredited persecutor of the church as he once was -- a marvellous contrast! He now preached the faith which once he destroyed, he spake boldly there in the name of the Lord Jesus, disputing with the Grecians who went about to kill him.

But this is not all: we find that it was at this time, that praying in the temple, he was in a trance, and the Lord appears to him, saying, "Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me", Acts 22:17 - 21. His own people will not receive him. The word to him -- "Depart: for I will

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send thee far hence unto the Gentiles", must have been a sore trial to him. He had been more successful as a persecutor than as a preacher of the gospel of God. How varied and peculiar are the exercises by which a servant is prepared for his Master's pleasure! He escapes from Jerusalem, and comes to Tarsus -- his native place. The servant of God is bound to make known to his own house and to his neighbours and friends the great things the Lord hath done for him. It is considered that he remained there some years; Galatians 1:21. But when the gospel went out to the Greeks (not Grecians) (Acts 11:20), Barnabas having been sent from Jerusalem to Antioch, "who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad", departed to Tarsus to seek Paul. "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (verse 26). Thus Saul is connected with the first assembly where the distinction between Jews and Greeks is merged in the one common name of Christians.

After a year there, a significant period, Barnabas and Saul go to Jerusalem. (See Acts 11:19, 30.) How beautiful is the course in which the servant of the Lord is led! Saul returns to Jerusalem, to be the bearer, conjointly with Barnabas, of temporal relief to the brethren which dwelt in Judea -- a lovely testimony to grace. The Jews had rejected heavenly blessings, and now the Gentiles who had received the heavenly blessings minister to them in earthly things. "And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark", Acts 12:25.

We now come (Acts 13) to a very important epoch in the history of this servant of Christ. It is supposed, that now, consequent on his being sent forth by the Holy Ghost in the assembly, his rapture into paradise occurred. I cannot assert it with authority, but it tallies with the time given in 2 Corinthians 12. It appears to be very probable that it

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occurred at this time. We find in this chapter (13: 1 - 3) that the assembly was in great vigour. There were prophets and teachers, and "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them". It is deeply interesting that these servants, and especially Saul, should receive his direction in the assembly. He had been called for a special work, but now he is directed by the Holy Spirit in the assembly, not by the apostles in Jerusalem, to enter on it. The start is always important. The beginning has a great effect on one's course. What a blessed way to enter on service, and service for the assembly! In the house of God to be openly called upon by the Holy Spirit to enter on his work; a moment surely that he could never forget during all his service. It is too much overlooked in this day that it is in the assembly and by the Holy Spirit the servant should be directed to any special line of service. I know how fallen we are, alas! but still I believe that if the Lord's servants were more in heart in the assembly as the centre of Christ's interests on earth, they would receive (though less openly than Barnabas and Saul) distinct direction from the Spirit of God, and would go forth like them, commended by the assembly, though not in the same conspicuous way. I say this, because while we should justly shrink from being conspicuous where we have failed, yet the intrinsic power remains, because the Holy Ghost is here, and Christ is in the midst of His own gathered together to His name.

They go forth to Salamis in Cyprus, and having passed through the whole island (there is always an exercise of patience in service) they encounter a remarkable sample of the obstruction of the enemy. A Jew, a magician, is with the chief man of the place -- a Gentile, but intelligent. He called Barnabas and Saul to him and desired to hear the word of God, but Elymas opposed them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith. But Saul ("who also is Paul") is by the Lord's power equal to the occasion. This is a very fine lesson for him just as he had entered on

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his service: he is confronted with a nature of opposition, the greatest which lay in his course. The Jew instead of helping the Gentile to "the right way of the Lord", endeavours to turn him away from the faith. Paul filled with the Holy Spirit exposes his terrible wickedness, and in inflicting blindness on him for a season indicates the moral blindness of the Jews. This event was no doubt a great confirmation to the apostle in the service to which he had been appointed.

How little one may see the way in which each servant has to be led in order that he may be fitted for the Lord's service! As obstacles arise, as surely they must, in a world of evil, the exercised servant learns in the strait the sufficiency of the Lord; and then he can say, "By the strength of my God I have leaped over a wall". The efficient servant, as a rule, first learns for himself the path, and the power in which he has to lead the saints. Faith is always tested, and as it is, experience follows. Moses was forty years in the wilderness before he was called to lead Israel through it. The apostle is, however, cheered by the conversion of the proconsul.

He then comes to Perga. Here Mark, who had accompanied them from Jerusalem, leaves them. Though we are not told the reason, we gather from other scriptures that it was from some Jewish predilection, for subsequently, when Barnabas insisted on taking Mark (his kinsman) with them, Paul refused, "And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other". I note this especially, because it shews that the help and support we may receive and be very thankful for at a particular juncture, may entirely fail when we least expect it. We can see what a gain all these exercises are to the servant, as has been said -- "God wants life and not habit". Hence, no sooner have we learned the grace suited for one set of circumstances, than we are placed in totally new ones. But thus the servant is in measure, as was our apostle, fitted to comfort others as he himself was comforted of God. Every occurrence, as the servant

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walks with the Lord, makes him more fitted for service.

After this lengthened missionary tour we find our apostle at Antioch in Pisidia (chapter 13: 14), a most important stage in his mission. Here in the synagogue he includes in his address, "Israelites, and ye that fear God". The burden of his discourse is the remarkable way in which God has favoured Israel, winding up with the warning from Habakkuk: "Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you", chapter 13: 40, 41.

It is an important moment. The Jews reject their testimony; the Gentiles receive it. Paul and Barnabas shake off the dust of their feet against them, and turn boldly to the Gentiles. It is very interesting to note the way the true servant is led. With all Paul's natural feelings for the Jews, how graciously and distinctly is he led on to see, as Stephen had declared, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost".

I pass over the labours of the apostle recorded in Acts 14, and turn for a moment to his return to Antioch, from whence he had started, being commended by the grace of God, a season of particular satisfaction to the servant of God. "And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples", Acts 14:27, 28.

Now in Acts 15:1, 2, occurs a great crisis in the apostle's history. "And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question". Now the opposition is from within. The servant

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must always be the first in suffering, in the place of Christ's rejection. He must learn to overcome each varied form of hostility before he can be able to teach others the grace of God which only can support one at such a juncture. Paul confronts this new opposition. Directed by revelation he goes to Jerusalem, and there he had a conference privately with Peter, James and John. What a remarkable time it was! They recognise that as the gospel of the circumcision was committed to Peter, so was the gospel of the uncircumcision committed to Paul, and they gave him the right hand of fellowship. At the centre of all Jewish interests the matter is discussed by the apostles and elders, and their judgment was then agreed to by the whole church: "That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle" (verses 29, 30). This decision is of great moment; it is the dawn of a new day for Christians. They are freed from the law of Moses, and they are restricted only by divine and fundamental principles.

But this great prosperity (as doubtless it was regarded by the apostle), as always, was the opportunity for new and unexpected suffering and opposition. Peter had, it appears, accepted the new line so fully that he was quite social with the Gentiles -- he ate and drank with them, until certain came from James; then he withdrew, fearing them of the circumcision. Paul had to withstand him to the face because he was to be blamed. What a painful duty for the apostle, and this with reference to one he had regarded as a pillar! But sad as this was in this bright moment for the church, there was a deeper sorrow concurrent with it, even that Barnabas, his loved companion, was drawn away by Peter's dissimulation, and, as is always the case when legality works, there is a yielding to one's own predilection more than to Christ's interests;

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consequently Barnabas insisted on taking his kinsman (Mark) with him, and sailed to Cyprus. Paul thus chequered, and with a new companion (Silas), departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

According to the decree at Jerusalem the Gentiles were not to be subjected to the Mosaic ritualism. A great yoke had been removed. Paul himself had been acknowledged by the chiefest apostles as the one to whom the gospel of the uncircumcision had been committed (Galatians 2); he, too, had learned in his heart, through the disaffection of Barnabas, the unreliable element which exists where there is any cleaving to the law, because the flesh must be tolerated when the law is accepted. It is good for us, as we read over the history of the apostle, and see the varied and touching ways in which he was made a servant to suit his Master, to ask ourselves whether we have been emptied from vessel to vessel, and whether we have taken to heart the varied exercises through which the Lord has passed us. As we are placed by the work of Christ in the presence of the Father as Christ is Himself -- not a shade of the distance, nor the cause of it remaining, the great thing for the saint, and still more for the effectual servant, is to be practically free from his own will, that he may be ready at every turn to do his Master's will. Surely Paul had to say now, The will of the Lord be done.

Greatly crossed, and we might say disappointed, he enters on his mission. A great mark of divine favour is now vouchsafed to him. At Lystra he meets with Timothy. The Lord graciously provides for His servant in the person of Timothy, the very help he requires, and largely compensates him for the loss he had sustained by the defection of Barnabas. How very touching are these peculiar instances of the Lord's succour and care for His servant! Paul can write of Timothy years afterwards, "I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state". "As a son with a father, he has served with me in the gospel", Philippians 2. Thus favoured of the Lord, he pursues his work. Forbidden to preach the word in Asia,

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he is called in a vision by night to come into Macedonia. The servant is to be ready for any orders, whether they involve a circuitous route or any other inconvenience.

Paul enters Europe, a fact of great significance. He was urged to come by a man of Macedonia in the vision, but no man appears to receive him. He had assuredly gathered that the Lord had called him to preach there, but for a long time there is nothing or very little to prove that he was doing the Lord's pleasure. "On the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither", Acts 16:13. Here the Lord opened the heart of Lydia of Thyatira (one of the proscribed territory), and "she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us". (verse 15.) Thus the apostle had found a home in the place. There was no appearance of any opening among the Macedonians. At this juncture, "a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: the same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation". Consequent on the apostle's refusal to accept the countenance of Satan, a terrible commotion occurred. It is worthy of note, that it was in Europe that the church openly accepted the support of the world. Paul not only refuses this proffered support, but in the name of Jesus Christ he drives out the evil spirit. Consequent on this, every power in the place -- the multitude, the mob -- rose up against them, and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. Eventually they were cast into prison, and the jailer thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. The opposition seemed to have succeeded. The jailer retires to rest. Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God, and the prisoners heard them. For the Lord's sake Paul had refused all countenance from the world, and then the world was determined to crush him;

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but the Lord now proves that "them that honour me, I will honour". At midnight, "suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed". The blessed God not only vindicates His faithful servant, but the man of Macedonia, in the person of the keeper of the prison, is before him seeking salvation. Paul directs him to the Saviour. The word is blessed to him, and he believes, and rejoices in God with all his house.

Blessed discipline for the servant of God! May it be better known. The world's cooperation is absolutely refused, though severe persecution is thereby incurred from the selfsame world; but this night of sorrow and suffering was broken in on by a marvellous manifestation of the mighty hand of God -- a table prepared in the presence of his enemies; his heart reassured. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Acts 17. Paul having left Philippi reaches Thessalonica, the capital of Macedonia. There he went into the synagogue, and "three sabbaths reasoned with them out of the scriptures", with such an effect that "some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few". (verse 4.) We shall find that, in this chapter and the following ones, Paul is being taught the utter depravity of the Jew. We read, "the Jews which believed not, moved with envy", raised a great disturbance. They troubled the people and the rulers of the city, so that the apostle says in 1 Thessalonians 2:14 - 16, that they had "suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost". Paul in this passage declares the judgment he has arrived at, which he had been acquiring by degrees

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during his ministry. It is to be remarked that as the heart is set by the Holy Spirit on the right object or purpose, it is not only that the purpose is more explicitly before the soul, but circumstances ordered of God conspire to convince you that you are right, so that any temptation to waver is removed.

Paul was sent away by the brethren by night to Berea. There many believed, "but when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people". (verse 13.) The Jews again hinder the work of the Lord. Little can we apprehend the painful impressions thus day by day growing in the apostle by the unrelenting enmity to Christ of His own people after the flesh. Paul's heart, by the Holy Ghost, was set on Christ, but doubtless God allowed the malicious hatred of the Jew to wean him from the natural love he had for his nation that he might be undistractedly given to the circle of Christ's heart.

Paul next goes to Athens, where his experience is quite new. It is interesting to note how the apostle is subjected to such a variety of circumstances, emptied indeed from vessel to vessel. The things that we try are made a trial of us. Here in the centre of learning of the pagan world the apostle discovers the true state of the pagan. They, after their natural wisdom, lest they should leave out the god of any nation, had erected an altar "To the unknown God". This affords the apostle an opportunity when he stood in the midst of Mars' hill, to deliver the most compendious summary of God's ways towards man: not the gospel simply, though it includes the gospel, but what we may term the Proclamation, as used in 2 Timothy 4:17.

Paul now comes to Corinth, Acts 18. It is not easy to describe or even to apprehend all that this great servant has acquired by the varied phases through which he has passed, but it is extremely interesting to us to know, that as they were ordered of God, they were conspiring to make him a more efficient servant to the church. Here Paul, "pressed in the spirit, testified to the Jews that Jesus was

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Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles". (verse 6.) This was a great step; he has so far learned that the church is entirely distinct from the synagogue of the Jews. The Lord, as we see from verse 8, encourages him in a very special way. "And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptised". The Corinthians were a very voluptuous people. The grace of God was exceeding abundant to them, but their nonconformity to the truth disclosed to the apostle how the flesh evades the word of God, and the deplorable excesses men highly gifted of God may descend to, when the cross of Christ, in its practical effects, is overlooked. Paul's epistles to them are of the deepest interest. They tell us on the one hand of the blessing in which they were set, "come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ;" while, on the other hand, in every circle at home and abroad, in the church and in the world, they had been selfish and unholy.

We next hear of Paul "having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow". He is not yet emancipated from the rites and rules of the law. We are too insensible of how very gradual is the way in which any one of us is set free from our ruling tastes, and, still more, of any religious prejudice, because it has laid hold of the conscience.

Paul now comes to Ephesus, but he did not remain. "When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; but bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus". (verses 20, 21.) It is to be remarked here that when Paul did not remain at Ephesus, Apollos came there; and, as it appears from the next chapter, he was blessed there, for Paul finds certain disciples there. They receive the Holy Ghost; the number of the men was

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about twelve. Here Paul is more decided than at Corinth. "When divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus", chapter 19: 9. He is definitely separate now; and Ephesus becomes the great centre of his work in Asia, as also the assembly most highly favoured of God. It had a most interesting start; the devotedness of the saints is very marked, and they truly received the "manifold more", as we see from the Epistle to the Ephesians. The apostle was there in great power. (See verses 11, 12.) We gather from 1 Timothy the special interest Paul took in the saints at Ephesus. There he was confronted with the violent opposition incited by Demetrius. The whole city was filled with confusion. Demetrius had appealed to their bigotry in order to prevent his trade being damaged. Thus the apostle adds to his experience a painful sense of the nature of pagan intolerance.

Probably about this time Paul wrote to the Galatians. As he had to correct the Corinthians for their laxity, to whom all grace had been vouchsafed, so now he has to expostulate with the Galatians for turning to the law to repress the flesh; after having begun in the Spirit, seeking to be made perfect in the flesh. Strange and inveterate are the efforts of the flesh to give itself a place. It is literally with it, "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life". What blessed discipline for the apostle to be not only confronted with these devices to vitiate or neutralise the work of God, but that he should be taught to annul them by a special word from the Lord. If the Corinthians had to learn the death of Christ with which they were identified here at the Lord's table, so also had the Galatians to learn that the Spirit of God lusteth against the flesh, and that if you walk in the Spirit you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh; Galatians 5.

In Acts 20:16 we get a touching instance of the apostle's interest at Ephesus. "From Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church" (verse 17.) The apostle

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reminds them of his labour and teaching among them (and this before he wrote the epistle to them), and also tells them that they should see his face no more.

Now we come to the deepest and saddest discipline to which the apostle was ever subjected. He is on his way to Jerusalem; he stays at the house of Philip the evangelist, and there the prophet Agabus "took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem", chapter 21: 11 - 15. Paul insists on going to Jerusalem: this is a very remarkable occurrence affecting the service of the apostle. It is not a precedent, but peculiar to Paul that he should persist in going to Jerusalem. The Lord evidently allowed that His servant should learn for himself that the people who had rejected Christ when on the earth, and had committed the unpardonable sin in resisting the Holy Ghost in the stoning of Stephen, were as inveterately opposed to the free grace of God as ever. Paul learns this for himself. He comes to Jerusalem. James counsels him, "Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads, and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed of thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law". Paul did so. (See verse 26.) "And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him". The

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chief captain rescues the apostle out of the hands of the mob, who were about to kill him, and eventually from the stairs of the castle he addressed the crowd in the Hebrew tongue. He recounts how the Lord had called him, as it is recounted in Acts 9, but here he makes especial additions to affect his audience -- the Jews -- as in chapter 26 he relates it as especially affecting the Gentiles. We read, "And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. And they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air", etc.; chapter 22: 22, 23. That is the result; nothing but deadly hatred is evoked. And the chief captain, the representative of the power in man's hand, was but too ready to co-operate with them.

Paul, in chapter 23, is placed before the council, the same great tribunal before which Stephen stood and suffered. The issue was as recorded in verse 10. "And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle". They could not agree among themselves. The executive rescued Paul from their hands. "And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome". (verse 11.) The Lord thus in the most gracious way acknowledges His suffering servant. But the Jews, with unrelenting hatred, "banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul". More than forty of them, a conspiracy in which the chief priests and elders are implicated, nay more, they act deceitfully; they prostitute truth to malice. They are ready to use their influence with the chief captain to give effect to their diabolical plot, but they were defeated, and Paul escaped. But what a heart-break to him to have learned of their malice through one of his nearest of kin!

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Paul is now handed over to the Roman governor, and, as he had appealed unto Caesar because of the unjustifiable trimming and connivance of the Roman governor to the chief priests, he sails for Rome. The shipwreck in Acts 27, portrays the thorough break-up of everything of an earthly order for safety on earth, while those who sail with Paul escaped safe to land. And so it is now in the higher or spiritual way.

Paul comes to Rome; a prisoner in the hands of the Gentiles in whom the power which God gave man was now vested. Here he is cut off from everything he valued on earth. Now, doubtless, unhinderedly as to aught here, his whole attention is directed to the glorious time that he spent years before in the third heaven. The perfection and beauty of that scene could not be increased, but for years, many years, he had been subjected to every kind of discipline to dissociate him from all earthly tendencies, and to render him in every way consistent, and in correspondence with the heavenly calling of "a man in Christ;" and we shall see farther on how fully and clearly he presents what he had learned then; and how the discipline to which he had been subjected, fitted him for the service; so that he was in full accord in mind and manner with his teaching; not only enunciating heavenly sentiments, but he was personally heavenly.

It is not easy to conceive the mind of the apostle when he realised before the Lord all that he had passed through. It is very peculiar the discipline he had endured. Attached to Israel, not merely as a man would be to his own family, but attached to them as the people of God of whom Christ was born, he clung to them to the last, in hope that Jerusalem would be the great christian centre, and in his own person he was allowed of God to prove that all hope was over. But now all hope of the coming in of Israel at Jerusalem being dispelled, to him -- a prisoner in Rome, the capital of the Gentile power -- the beauty and magnitude of the church as the body of Christ is opened out. The discipline was effectual; it had removed the thing

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which in any degree barred or clouded the great mystery that was committed to him. Surely as the natural desire for Israel's blessing was quashed, and as his heart was directed to the great disclosures made to him in Paradise, no one who has not experienced something of the kind can comprehend the effect produced when an object which could claim a great amount of attention, and one at the same time most naturally attractive, has been so completely removed out of sight, that you are quite free to contemplate the only object in the ascendant, and which now has no rival. If Paul had longed that his nation should share in the blessing of the church, he has now most painfully learned that it was inveterately opposed to Christ, and that consequently he is a prisoner at Rome, now contemplating in a cloudless atmosphere the full beauty and grandeur of the great mystery.

It is very interesting to see the effect of the discipline in our apostle. There are no expressions of disappointment that we hear of, but now a prisoner in Rome, he writes the Epistle to the Ephesians. Some would say that this was a circular letter; whether it was or not is of secondary importance; the great interest to us is that in this epistle we have the fullest opening out of the great mystery -- Christ and the church. If Israel, God's earthly people, were once the centre of all His ways here, now, the church, the body of Christ, is infinitely more so. The apostle, severed from every link that would connect him with Israel, is now conducted by the Spirit to apprehend fully, and in practical detail, the secret of God, which had been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

There are two great things peculiar to the mystery: one is that we all -- Jew and Gentile -- are raised together and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ; the first thing is that we are heavenly; and the second is, that in the same power which raised Christ up we are raised up. That is a power entirely outside and beyond everything of man; and consequently on this, or resulting from it, there should be, because of this power working in us, a

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growing up to Him, the Head in all things; and this with absolute and decided victory over all the power of the devil, so that it is not merely the height to which we are raised out of all here, but the immense moral superiority in which we are placed here on earth, the place of our alienation from God. Brought to the greatest height (heaven) by the greatest power, the power which raised Christ, and because we are heavenly, competent to be descriptive here of Christ, from the highest circle -- the assembly, down to a slave, and at the same time superior to the wiles and the power of the devil. How entranced the apostle must have been as all this by the Spirit came by inspired words before him. Surely he justified God for all the discipline to which he had been subjected in order to make him a vessel fit to impart the greatest communication ever made to a man. We little understand all the pains, as I might say, which the Lord takes with us to render us in any measure suited for His work. He only knows what is fitting, and that this fitness could not be procured by any other means but by the discipline which He who knows behind and before administers. It is most touching to hear the apostle writing "to make all men see the economy of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God;" and in which the angels now learn the manifold wisdom of God; Ephesians 3:9, 10. "And to make all men see what is the administration of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God".

The remainder of the apostle's life seems to have been divided into two parts: one, in which he was led into the height and blessedness of the mystery, and his own experience as entering into it as detailed in Philippians; and the other, the terrible declension (2 Timothy); how he was deserted, as we find in chapter 4, and how he helps us in such a time.

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It is very interesting and helpful that we have in the Epistle to the Philippians the experiences of the apostle at this time. There are, as it seems to me, two parts: the first, the beginning of his imprisonment, when he was enjoying the blessed results of God's calling, as described in Ephesians; while at the close, when the departure from the truth was almost overwhelming, when all in Asia had turned away from him, he was peculiarly supported and cheered by the Lord, and thus a guide to us. Each is of deep interest to us. The one to shew us the sublime happiness which is ours in the most trying circumstances, The prisoner at Rome not only sees and writes of things of infinite magnitude, but he tells us also (led to do so by the Spirit) his own experiences at the time. In Philippians 1, "To be with Christ, which is far better", is the first desire of his heart; but as it is good for the saints that he should remain, he knows that he will remain; but his expectation now, as always, is that Christ should be magnified in his body by life or by death.

Chapter 2. To be like-minded to Christ, to be a servant as He was, would fulfil his joy.

In chapter 3 Christ is his object; he surrenders all that was naturally of gain to him for Christ, and forgets the things which are behind, pressing on to the goal -- the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; a citizen of heaven, looking for Him to come to change this body of humiliation into a glorious body like Christ's own glorious body. And finally, in chapter 4, he has learned that in whatever state he is to be satisfied in himself, and he can do all things through Him who strengtheneth him. Thus his desire is -- First, to be with Christ; secondly, to be a servant like Him; thirdly, Christ is his sole exclusive object; and lastly, Christ is the power to carry him over everything here. These four great experiences are generated from the two sides of the calling.

Before we pass from the first part of his imprisonment, we cannot overlook the important allusion he makes in Colossians 2:1 to the conflict he had for the Colossians.

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It unfolds to us his inner life, and how he, a prisoner, was pleading for the blessing of souls, and how he was led of the Lord to expose the beginning of a leaven which has permeated the church everywhere; and at the same time to set forth the blessed and only way by which they could be preserved from it. It is very encouraging to place oneself as it were beside the apostle in his chains, and apprehend in some degree the deep conflict through which he was passing in order that the saints might be preserved from this great leaven -- a compound of religiousness and mentality. What a contrast are his life and times with the Lord (so blessed and so bright) with his circumstances in the eyes of men! Most blessed to know that holding the Head -- Christ everything and in all -- clears and preserves us from all this leaven.


The close of his imprisonment discloses to us a very different state of things from that at the beginning of his imprisonment. It is thought by some that 1 Timothy was written after the first imprisonment, and there is much to corroborate this view; but it is very evident that there is a very marked change between 1st and 2nd Timothy. In the former the apostle is occupied with order, writing to Timothy at Ephesus; and in the latter he is occupied with disorder, and how the man of God should behave in such a time. It is to be remarked that in the first epistle, in connection with the proper ordering of the assembly, he sets forth the two great evils which were impending, namely, Romanism in chapter 4, and radicalism in chapter 6; or Christianity without Christ -- religion with independence of God on the one hand, while on the other, gain was godliness or whatever exalted man. One was exalting man under the form of the christian religion, the other making human advancement everything.

Now in 2 Timothy, which describes the state of things

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at the close of Paul's second imprisonment, we see the apostle in quite different times from those at the beginning of his first imprisonment, when he wrote, "I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel", Philippians 1:12. This epistle (2 Timothy) was written after his first answer (chapter 4: 16), when none of the saints stood with him. He begins by saying, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind;" and in the same chapter announces "that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes". When we bear in mind that Asia was the country where he had chiefly laboured, we can form some idea of the grief and distress which their alienation must have given him. How touchingly his heart clings to even one there, as he writes, "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus".

But Paul is not discouraged. If in the Epistle to the Ephesians he led us to the glorious heights of God's calling, so now, when disaffection and the utmost obstruction prevailed in the assembly, he having unfolded to us its glory with God, is now the one to support and to guide us in the direst confusion, when "instead of a girdle there is a rent, and burning instead of beauty". (See Isaiah 3:24.) In a few sentences pregnant with divine blessing he instructs Timothy and through him all who would be faithful to Christ what is to be done at such a time. His instructions may be classed under two heads: one, that being strong himself in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, Timothy was to commit the things that he had heard from the apostle "to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also;" the other, that he was to be most absolute in his separation from the vessels to dishonour. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work", chapter 2: 21.

As our apostle had been prepared of God to be the fit

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vessel of communicating the beauty and glory of God's chief interest on the earth, so also now is he instructed to warn us of the difficult times which were coming. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come", chapter 3: 1. The aim of the opposers will be the same as Jannes and Jambres; as they withstood Moses, so do the opposers in the last days withstand the truth. Their character is "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof", and then follows, "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth", which would indicate who they are. Now Paul's doctrine with his example, "manner of life" (see verses 10, 11), is firstly our resource; not only the doctrine, which had been abandoned by all in Asia, but the very discipline through which he had passed would be an evidence of being in the right course. Secondly, "Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (verses 14 - 17).

Our apostle having prepared us for the last days, intimates that his course is finished. He says, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (chapter 4: 6 - 8); a blessed finish to his great service. And then in the calmness and confidence of one perfectly subject to the will of God, he can think of having the profit of Timothy's company: "Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me". Also, "Take Mark and bring him with thee".

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Nothing is unthought of: "The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments". Thus this dear and honoured servant closes his course. If his beginning in Acts 9 was marked by the light out of heaven shining down on him, so, as he disappears from this scene, there is a beauty and a moral grandeur about him which has never been surpassed except by the perfect Master whom he served. Tribulation had worked patience with him; indeed, patience had its perfect work, for he was "perfect and entire, wanting nothing". How blessedly effectual the divine discipline, so that Christ was magnified in his body, by life or by death!

While we thank the Lord for having given such a servant to the church, may we learn from that servant to be cast entirely on the One who only can lead us on in the same path of faith. Amen.