Sermon 2621. The Sinner's Refuge
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, MAY 7, 1899.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT NEW PARK STREET CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK, ON A LORD'S-DAY EVENING, EARLY IN THE YEAR 1857.
"Then you shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee there, who kills any person atunawares." Numbers 35:11.
YOU are aware that the principle of blood-revenge is a deep-seated one in the Eastern mind. From the earliest ages it wasalways the custom with the Orientals, when a man was murdered, or slain without malice aforethought, for the nearest relative,his heir, or any person related to him, to take revenge for him upon the person who, either intentionally or unintentionally,was the means of his death. This revenge was a very special thing to the Oriental mind. The avenger of blood would hunt hisvictim for 40 years-yes, until he died, if he was not able to reach him before-and would be on his trail all his life, thathe might slay him. It was not necessary that the manslayer should have any trial before a judge- his victim was dead and ifthe one who killed him was not put to death, it was reckoned among some tribes to be legitimate to kill his father, or indeedany member of his tribe-and until someone in that tribe was put to death, as a revenge for the man who had been slain, byaccident or otherwise, a deadly feud existed between the two clans which never could be quenched except by blood.
Now, when the Lord gave to the Jews this Law concerning the cities of refuge, he took advantage of their deep-rooted lovetowards the system of the revenge of blood by the nearest relative. God acted wisely in this, as He has done in all things.There are two matters mentioned in Scripture which I do not believe God ever approved, but which, finding they were deep-seated,He did not forbid to the Jews. One was polygamy, the practice of marrying many wives had become so established that, thoughGod abhorred it, yet He permitted it to the Jews because He foresaw that they would inevitably have broken the commandmentif He had made an ordinance that they should have but one wife. It was the same with this matter of blood-revenge-it was sofirmly fixed in the mind of the people that God, instead of refusing to the Jews what they regarded as the privilege of takingvengeance upon their fellows, enacted a Law which rendered it almost impossible that a man should be killed unless he werereally a murderer, for He appointed six cities, at convenient distances, so that when one man killed another by accident,and so committed homicide, he might at once flee to one of those cities. And though he might have to remain there all hislife, yet the avenger of blood could never touch him, if he were innocent. He would have a fair trial, but even if he werefound innocent, he must stay within the city into which the avenger of blood could not, by any possibility, come. If he wentout of the city, the avenger might kill him. He was, therefore, to suffer perpetual banishment, even for causing death accidentally,in order that it might be seen how much God regarded the rights of blood and how fearful a thing it is to put a man to deathin any way. You see, dear Friends, that this prevented. the likelihood of anyone being killed who was not guilty of murder,for, as soon as one man struck another to the ground by accident, by a stone, or any other means, he fled to a city of refuge.He had a head start from the pursuer and if he arrived there first, he was secure and safe.
I wish to use this custom of the Jews as a metaphor and type to set forth the salvation of men through Jesus Christ our Lord.I shall give you, first, an explanation and, then, an exhortation.
I. I SHALL ATTEMPT AN EXPLANATION OF THIS TYPE. Note, first, the person for whom the city of refuge was provided. It was nota place of shelter for the willful murderer-if he fled there, after a fair trial he must be dragged out of it and given upto the avenger. And the avenger of death was to kill him and so have blood for blood, and life for life. But, in case of anaccident, when one man had slain another without malice aforethought and had, therefore, only committed homicide, the manfleeing there was perfectly safe.
Here, however, the type does not adequately represent the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not a refuge provided for menwho are innocent, but for men who are guilty-not for those who have accidentally transgressed, but for those who have willfullygone astray! Our Savior has come into the world to save not those who have, by mistake and error, committed sin, but thosewho have fearfully transgressed against well-known Divine Commandments and who have followed the sinful dictates of theirown free will, their own perversity leading them to rebel against God.
Note, next, the avenger of blood. In explaining this portion of the type, I must, of course, take every part of the figure.The avenger of blood, I have said, was usually the next of kin to the one who had been slain. But I believe any other memberof the family was held to be competent to act as the avenger. If, for instance, my brother had been killed, it would havebeen my duty, as the first of the family, to avenge his blood, if possible, then and there -to go after the murderer, or theman who had accidentally caused his death-and to put him to death at once. If I could not do that, it would be my businessand that of my father and, indeed, of every male member of the family, to hunt and pursue that man until God should deliverhim into our hands so that we might put him to death. I mean not that it is nowour duty, but it would have been so regardedunder the old Jewish dispensation. It was allowed, by the Mosaic Law, that those who were the relatives of the man killedwould be the avengers of his blood.
We find the counterpart of this type, for the sinner, in the Law of God. Sinner, the Law of God is the blood-avenger thatis on your trail! You have willfully transgressed-you have, as it were, killed God's Commandments, you have trampled themunder your feet-and so the Law of God is the avenger of blood. It is after you and it will have you in its grasp before long!Condemnation is hanging over your head and it shall surely overtake you! Though it may not reach you in this life, yet, inthe world to come, the avenger of blood, the Moses, the Law of the Lord, shall execute vengeance upon you and you shall beutterly destroyed!
But, further, there was a city of refuge provided under the Law of God-no, more, there were six cites of refuge, in orderthat one of them might be at a convenient distance from any part of the country. Now, there are not six Christs- there isbut one, but there is a Christ everywhere. "The Word of God is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart, that is, theWord of faith which we preach, that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart thatGod has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness and with the mouthconfession is made unto salvation."
The city of refuge was a priestly city-a city of the Levites, and it afforded protection for life to the manslayer. He mightnever go out of it till the death of the then reigning High Priest, after which he might go free without being touched bythe avenger of blood. But, during the time of his sojourn there, he was housed and fed gratuitously- everything was providedfor him and he was kept entirely safe! And I would have you mark that he was safe in this city, not because of its walls,or bolts, or bars, but simply because it was the place Divinely appointed for shelter. Do you see the man running towardsit? The avenger is after him, fast and furious! The manslayer has just reached the borders of the city-in a moment the avengerstops-he knows it is no use going any further after him, not because the city walls are strong, nor because the gates arebarred, nor because an army stands outside to resist, but because God has said the man shall be safe as soon as he has crossedthe border and has come into the suburbs of the city! Divine appointment was the only thing which made the city of refugesecure! Now, Beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ is the Divinely-appointed way of salvation! Whoever among us shall make hastefrom our sins and flee to Christ, being convinced of our guilt, and helped by God's Spirit to enter that road, shall, withoutdoubt, find absolute and eternal security! The curse of the Law of God shall not touch us, Satan shall not harm us, vengeanceshall not reach us, for the Divine appointment, stronger than gates of iron or brass, shields everyone of us "who have fledfor refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" in the Gospel!
The city of refuge, I must have you note, too, had around it, suburbs of a very great extent. Two thousand cubits were allowedfor grazing land for the cattle of the priests and a thousand cubits within these for fields and vineyards. Now, no soonerdid the man reach the suburbs of the city, than he was safe-it was not necessary for him to get within the walls, but theoutskirts, themselves, were sufficient protection. Learn, then, that if you do but touch the hem of
Christ's garment, you shall be made whole! If you do but lay hold of Him with "faith as a grain of mustard seed," with faithwhich is very feeble, but is truly a living principle, you are safe-
"A little genuine Grace ensures
The death of all our sins!"
Get anywhere within the borders of the city of refuge and you are, at once and forever, secure from the avenger!
We have some interesting particulars, also, with regard to the distance of these cities from the habitations of men in ancientJudea. It is said that wherever the crime of homicide might be committed by any man, he might get to a city of refuge withinhalf a day and, verily, Beloved, it is no great distance from a guilty sinner to the sheltering breast of Christ! It is buta simple renunciation of our own powers and a laying hold of Christ, to be our All-in-All, that is required in order to ourbeing found within the city of refuge! Then, with regard to the roads to the city, we are told that they were strictly preservedin good order. Every river was bridged. As far as possible, the road was made level and every obstruction removed so thatthe man who fled might find an easy passage to the city. Once a year the elders of the city went along the route to see thatit was in proper repair and to assure, as far as they could, that nothing might occur through the breaking down of bridges,or the blocking of the highway, to impede the flight of any manslayer and cause him to be overtaken and killed. Wherever therewere by-roads and turns, there were legible sign-posts with this word plainly visible upon them, "Refuge"-"Refuge"-pointingout the way in which the man should flee if he wished to reach the city. There were two people always kept on the road, sothat in case the avenger of blood should overtake a man, they might intercept him and entreat him to stay his hand until theman had reached the city, lest innocent blood should be shed without a fair trial-and so the avenger himself would be provedguilty of murder. The risk, of course, was upon the head of the avenger if he put one to death who did not deserve to die.
Now, Beloved, I think this is a picture of the road to Christ Jesus. It is no roundabout road of the Law-it is no obeyingthis, that, and the other command-it is a straight road. "Believe, and live." It is a road so hard that no self-righteousman will ever tread it, but it is a road so easy that every man who knows himself to be a sinner may, by it, find his wayto Christ and his way to Heaven! And lest any should be mistaken, God has set me and my Brothers in the ministry to be likehand-posts in the way, to point poor sinners to Jesus! And we desire to always have on our lips the cry, "Refuge! Refge/REFUGE!"Sinner, this is the way! Walk you therein and you shall be saved!
I think I have thus given the explanation of the type. Christ is the true City of Refuge and He preserves all those who fleeto Him for mercy. He does that because He is the Divinely-appointed Savior, able to save unto the uttermost all them thatcome to God by Him.
II. Now, in the second place, I HAVE TO GIVE AN EXHORTATION.
You must allow me to picture a scene. You see that man in the field? He has been at work. He has taken an ox-goad in his hand,to use it in some part of his farm work. Unfortunately, instead of doing what he desires to do, he strikes a companion ofhis in the heart and he falls down dead! You see the poor fellow with horror in his face. He is a guiltless man, but, oh,what misery he feels when he gazes upon the corpse lying at his feet! A pang shoots through his heart, such as you and I havenever felt-horror, dread, desolation! Yes, some of us have felt something akin to it spiritually-we will not allude to thewhen and the why-but who can describe the agony of a man who beholds his companion fall lifeless by his side? Words are incapableof expressing the anguish of his spirit! He looks upon him, he tries to lift him up- he makes sure that he is really dead-whatdoes he do next? Do you not see him? In a moment, he flies out of the field where he was at labor and runs along the roadwith all his might! He has many weary miles before him-six long hours of hard running-and as he passes the gate, he turnshis head and there is the man's brother! He has just come into the field and seen his brother lying dead!
Oh, can you conceive how the manslayer's heart palpitates with fear? He has a little head start on the road-he sees the avengerof blood, with red face, hot and fiery, rushing out of the field with the ox-goad in his hand, and running after him! Theway lies through the village where the dead man's father lives-how fast the poor fugitive flees through the streets! He doesnot even stop to bid good-bye to his wife, nor to kiss his children-but on, on, he speeds for his very life! The relativecalls to his father and his other friends-and now they all rush after him. Now there is quite a troop on the road-the manis still ahead, there is no rest for him. Though one of his pursuers may pause for a while, or turn back, the others stilltrail him. There is a horse in the village. They mount it and pursue him. If they can find any animal that can assist theirswiftness, they will take it. Can you not conceive of the manslayer crying, "Oh, that I had wings, that I might fly to thecity of refuge"? See how he spurns the earth beneath his feet! What, to him, are the green fields on either hand? What arethe babbling brooks? He stops not even so much as to wet his lips! The sun is scorching him, but still on, on, on, he runs!He casts aside one garment after another! He still rushes on and the pursuers are close behind him. He feels like the poorstag hunted by the hounds-he knows they are eager for his blood and that if they do but once overtake him, it will be a word,a blow-and he will be a dead man. Watch how he speeds on his way! Do you see him now? A town is rising into sight! He perceivesthe towers of the city of refuge-but his weary feet almost refuse to carry him further! The veins are standing out on hisbrow like whipcords! The blood spurts from his nostrils-he is straining all his powers to the utmost as he rushes on-he wouldgo faster if he had any more strength. The pursuers are after him-they have almost caught him, but see, and rejoice! He hasjust reached the outskirts of the city-there is the line of demarcation-he leaps over it and falls senseless to the ground-butthere is joy in his heart.
The pursuers come and look at him, but they dare not slay him. The knife is in their hands and the stones, too, but they darenot touch him. He is safe, he is secure! His running has been just fast enough-he has managed to leap into the kingdom oflife and to avoid a cruel and terrible death.
Sinner, that picture I have given you is a picture of yourself, in all but the man's guiltlessness, for you area guilty man!Oh, if you did but know that the avenger of blood is after you! Oh, that God would give you Grace that you might have a senseof your danger tonight! You would then not stop a solitary instant without fleeing to Christ. You would say, even while sittingin your pew, "Let me get away, away, away, where mercy is to be found," and you would give neither sleep to your eyes, norslumber to your eyelids till you had found in Christ a refuge for your guilty spirit! I am come, then, to exhort you to fleeto Jesus now!
Let me pick out one of you, to be a specimen of all the rest. There is a young man here who is guilty. The proofs of his guiltlie close at hand. He knows himself to be a great transgressor-he has foully offended against God's Law. Young man, youngman, as you are guilty, the avenger of blood is after you! Oh, that avenger-God's fiery Law-did you ever see it? It speakswords of flame! It has eyes like lamps of fire! If you could once see the Law of God and mark the dread sharpness of its terriblesword, you might, as you sat in your pew, quiver almost to death in horror at your impending doom! Sinner, I think if thisavenger shall seize you, it will not be merely temporal death that will be your portion-it will be death eternally! Sinner,remember, if the Law of God lays its hands on you, and Christ does not deliver you, you are damned! Do you know what damnationmeans? Say, can you tell what are the billows of eternal wrath and what the worm that never dies are? What the Lake of Fire,what the Pit that is bottomless are? No, you cannot know how dreadful these things are! Surely, if you could, Man, you wouldbe up on your feet and fleeing for life-eternal life! You would be like that man in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress who put hisfingers in his ears and ran sway! And when his neighbors ran after him, he cried, "Eternal life! Eternal life!"
O stolid stupidity! O sottish ignorance! O worse than brutal folly that makes men sit down in their sins and rest content!The drunk still drinks his bowl-he knows not that in its dregs there lies wrath. The swearer still indulges in his blasphemy-heknows not that, one day, his oath shall return upon his own head! You will go your way and eat the fat, and drink the sweet,and live merrily and happily, but, ah, poor Souls, if you knew that the avenger of blood was after you, you would not actso foolishly! Would you suppose that the man, after he had killed his neighbor, and when he saw the avenger coming, wouldcoolly take his seat and wait to be slain, when there was a city of refuge provided? No, that consummate folly is reservedfor such as you are! God has left that to be the top stone of the folly of the human race, the most glittering jewel in thecrown of free will-the dress of death wherein free will does robe itself. Oh, you will not flee to Christ, you will stay whereyou are, you will rest contented and, one day, the Law of God will seize you-and then wrath, eternal wrath, will lay holdupon you! How foolish is the man who wastes his time and carelessly loiters when the city of refuge is before him, and theavenger of blood is after him!
Suppose, now, I take another case. There is a young man here, who says, "Why, Sir, it is no use my trying to be saved. I shallnot think of prayer or faith, or anything of that sort, because there is no city of refuge for me." Suppose that poor man,who had killed his neighbor, had talked like that? Suppose he had sat still, folded his arms and said, "There is no city ofrefuge for me." I cannot imagine such folly! And, surely, you do not mean what you said just now! If you thought there wasno city of refuge for you, I know what you would do-you would shriek, and cry, and groan!
There is a kind of despair that some people have which is a sham despair. I have met with many who say, "We do not believewe could ever be saved," and they seem not to care whether they are saved or not. How foolish would the man be who would sitstill and so let the avenger slay him because he fancied there was no entrance for him into the city! But your folly is justas great and even worse, if you sit still and say, "The Lord will never have mercy on me." He is as much a suicide who refusesthe medicine because he thinks it will not cure him, as the man who takes the knife and stabs himself in the heart! You haveno right, Sir, to let your despair triumph over the promise of God! He has said it and He means it-"Whoever shall call onthe name of the Lord shall be saved." If He has shown you your guilt, depend upon it, there is a city of refuge for you! Runto it! Run to it! May God help you to take yourselves to it now! Oh, if men only knew how dreadful is the wrath to come andhow terrible will be the Day of Judgment, how swiftly would they flee away to Jesus! There is not a hearer of mine here whowould delay an hour to flee to Christ if he did but know how fearful is his condition out of Christ! When God the Holy Spiritonce convinces us of our sin, there is no stopping, then! The Spirit says, "Today, if you will hear His voice," and we cry,"Today, Lord, today, we hear Your voice!" There is no pausing, then! It is on, on, on, for our very life! I beseech you, myHearers, you who have sinned against God, and know it-you who want to be delivered from the wrath to come-I beseech you, byHim that lives and was dead, flee to Christ!
Take heed that it is to Christ you flee, for, if the man who had slain his neighbor had fled to another city, it would havebeen of no avail. Had he fled to a place that was not an ordained city of refuge, he might have sped on with all the impetuosityof desire and yet have been slain within the city gates. So, you self-righteous ones, you may flee to your good works, youmay flee to your baptism and your confirmation-and your church or your chapel attendance-you may be all that is good and excellent,but you are fleeing to the wrong city and the avenger of blood will find you, after all! Poor Soul! Remember that Christ Jesusthe Lord is the only Refuge for a guilty sinner-His blood, His wounds, His agonies, His sufferings, His death-these are thegates and walls of the city of salvation! But if we trust not in these, without a doubt, trust where we may, our hope shallbe as a broken reed and we shall perish after all!
I may have one here who is newly awakened, just led to see his sin, as if it were the corpse of a murdered man lying at hisfeet. It seems to me that God has sent me to that one individual in particular. Man, God has shown you your guilt and He hasseat me to tell you that there is a Refuge for you! Though you are guilty, He is gracious! Though you have revolted and rebelledagainst Him, He will have mercy on all who repent and trust in the merits of His Son! He has bid me to say to you, "Flee!Flee! Flee!" And, in God's name, I say to you, "Flee to Christ." He has bid me warn you against delays. He has bid me remindyou that death surprises men when they least expect it. He has bid me assure you that the avenger will not spare, neitherwill his eyes pity-his sword was forged for vengeance, and vengeance it will have! God has also bid me exhort you, by theterror of the Lord, by the Day of Judgment, by the wrath to come, by the uncertainty of life and by the nearness of death,to flee to Christ this very moment-
"Hasten, traveler, hasten! The night comes on! And you far off from rest and home, Hasten, traveler, hasten!"
But, oh, how much more earnest is our cry, when we say, "Hasten, Sinner, hasten!" Not only does the night come on, but, look,the avenger of blood is close behind! Already he has slain his thousands-let the shrieks of souls, already damned, come upin your ears! Already the avenger has worked wonders of wrath-let the howling of Gehenna startle you, let the torments ofHell amaze you! What? Will you pause with such an avenger in swift pursuit? What? Young man, will you stop this night? Godhas convinced you of your sin-will you go to your rest once more without a prayer for pardon? Will you live another day withoutseeing to Christ? No, I think I see signs that the Spirit of God is working in you and I think I hear what He makes you say,"God helping me, I give myself to Christ even now! And if He will not, at once, shed abroad his love in my heart, this ismy firm resolve-no rest will I find anywhere till Christ shall look on me and seal, with His Holy Spirit, my pardon boughtwith blood."
But if you sit still, young man-and you will do so, if left to your own free will-I can do no more for you than weep for youin secret. Alas for you, my Hearer! Alas for you! The ox led to the slaughter is more wise than you are! The sheep that goesto its death is not so foolish as you are! Alas for you, my Hearer, that your pulse should beat a march to Hell! Alas thatyonder clock, like the muffled drum, should be the music of the funeral march of your soul! Alas! Alas that you should foldyour arms in pleasure when the knife is at your heart! Alas! Alas for you, that you should sing and make merriment when therope is around your neck and the fatal drop is about to be given to you! Alas for you, that you should go your way and livejoyfully and happily, and yet be lost! You remind me of the silly moth that dances round the flame, singeing itself for awhile and then, at last, plunging to its death-such are you! Young woman, with your butterfly clothing, you are leaping roundthe flame that shall destroy you! Young man, light and frothy in your conversation, joyful in your life, you are dancing toHell! You are singing your way to damnation and promenading the road to destruction! Alas! Alas! Alas that you should be spinningyour own winding-sheets-that you should, every day, by your sins, be building your own gallows-that by your transgressionsyou should be digging your own graves and working hard to pile the firewood for your own eternal burning! Oh, that you werewise, that you understood this, that you would consider your latter end! Oh, that you would flee from the wrath to come!
O my Hearers, think of the wrath to come, the wrath to come! How terrible that wrath is! These lips dare not venture to describeit! At the very thought of it, this heart fills with agony! O my Hearers, are there not some of you who will soon be provingwhat the wrath to come really is? There are some of you who, if you were now to drop dead in your pews, must be damned. Ah,you know it! You know it! You dare not deny it! I know you know it! As you hang down your heads, you seem to say, "It is true.I have no Christ to trust to, no robe of righteousness to wear, no Heaven to hope for!" My Hearer, give me your hand! Neverdid father plead with son with more impassioned earnestness than I would plead with you. Why do you sit still when Hell isburning almost in your very face? "Why will you die, O house of Israel?" O God! Must I yearn over these people in vain? MustI continue to preach to them and be "a savor of death unto death" to them and not "a savor of life unto life"? And must Ihelp to make their Hell more intolerable? Must it be so? Must the people who now listen to us, like the people of Chorazinand Bethsaida in the days of our Lord, have a more terrible doom than the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah? O you who areleft to your own free will to choose the way to Hell-as all men do when left to themselves-let these eyes run down with tearsfor you because you will not weep for yourselves!
It is strange that I should feel more concern for your souls than you do for yourselves. My God knows there is not a stonethat I would leave unturned to save each one of you. There is nothing that human strength could do, or human study could learnwhich I would not seek after if I might but be the instrument of saving you from Hell! And yet you act as though it concernedyou not, whom it should concern the most. It is my business, but it is far more yours. Sirs, if you are lost, remember thatit is yourselves who will be lost! And if you perish, bear me witness that I am clear of your blood. If you flee not fromthe wrath to come, forget not that I have warned you. I could not bear to have the blood upon my head which some, even ofthose who like sound doctrine, I fear, will have at the last day of account! I tremble for some I know who preach God's Gospel,in some sense idly, but who never warn sinners. A member of my Church said to me lately, "I heard So-and-So preach- he iscalled a sound-doctrine-man. I listened to him for nine years and I was attending the theater all the time. I could curse,I could swear, I could sin and I never had a warning from that man's lips during the whole nine years."
Ah, me! I would not like one of my Hearers to say that concerning my preaching. Let this world hiss me! Let me wear the coatthat sparkles, and the cap that garnishes a fool! Let earth condemn me and let the fools of the universe spurn me, but I willbe free from the blood of my Hearers! The only thing I seek in this world is to be faithful to my Hearers' souls. If you aredamned, it will not be for lack of faithful preaching, nor of earnest warning. Young men and maidens, old men with gray heads,merchants and tradesmen, servants, fathers, mothers, children-I have warned you this night-you are in danger of Hell! And,as God lives, before whom I stand, you will soon be there unless you flee from the wrath to come! Remember, none but Jesuscan save you! But if God shall enable you to see your danger and give you Grace to flee to Christ, He will have mercy uponyou and the avenger of blood shall never find you! No, not even when the red lightning shall be flashing from the hands ofGod in the Day of Judgment! His City of Refuge shall shelter you forever! And in Heaven with Jesus, triumphant, blessed, secure,you shall sing of the blood and righteousness of Christ who delivers penitent sinners from the wrath to come. God bless andsave you all! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: 1 CORINTHIANS 10:1-14.
Verses 1-4. Moreover, brethren, I would not that you be ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passedthrough the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; anddid all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.The history of Israel in coming out of Egypt was a very instructive type of the history of the visible Church of Christ. Theywere in slavery in Egypt as all men are in bondage to sin and Satan. They were brought out of Egypt as all the redeemed aredelivered by the almighty Grace of God. With a high hand and an outstretched arm, the Lord brought Israel out of the houseof bondage and, by a very wonderful Baptism, "in the cloud and in the sea," they commenced their career as God's separatedpeople. Then they all shared in the same spiritual ordinances-"They did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drinkthe same spiritual drink." Yet, for all that, they were not all God's people. They were so nominally and visibly-but theywere not all really so. And, as there was a mixed multitude that came up out of Egypt, together with the true Seed of promise,so is there an alien element in every Church at this present day. Among those who have been baptized into Christ, there arestill some who, while they eat the spiritual meat and drink the spiritual drink, yet for all that have not been brought intotrue communion with Christ and do not, in reality, know the Lord.
5. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. There was no evidence of faithin many of them and, "without faith it is impossible to please God." Is it not a sad thing that in a people so highly favoredas they were, there should have been so large a proportion of those who had not the faith which renders men pleasing to God?So they did literally come out into the wilderness to die there-and they never entered into the rest of God.
6. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we. We professed Christians-we, Church members.
6. Should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. They gave way to their carnal appetites. They craved for meat whenGod had already given them angels' food. Now, if we act like this, we cannot be pleasing to God.
7. Neither be you idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up toplay. That is, to go through those unclean rites and ceremonies before their idols which are here called, "play." Ah, dearFriends, may God keep us from the worship of anything which we can see with our eyes, or hear with our ears! May we neverbecome idolaters! You know we can very easily make idols of our children. We can make idols of our own persons! We can makeidols of our talents, of our respectability and so forth. But, oh, it matters not what the idol is-it is no more pleasingto God if it is of silver and gold than if it were of the mud of the river. No-"Neither be you idolaters, as were some ofthem."
8. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Fornicationin God's people is peculiarly black and filthy. In the ordinary man of the world, it is evil enough, but when a man professesto be a Christian, he must flee from even the very thought of it, and keep himself chaste, for his body is a temple of theHoly Spirit. Oh, may none of us ever come anywhere near to this great evil, but in purity of heart may we walk before ourGod!
9. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted Him, and were destroyed by serpents. I cannot stay to mentionthe many ways in which we can tempt Christ, but we can still readily do so. What a dreadful doom it was to be destroyed byserpents! Yet is it not amazing that in connection with this great sin, and its awful punishment, the bronze serpent was liftedhigh, that whoever looked at it might live? And now, if any have tempted Christ by presumptuous sin, by their delay, or bytheir infidelity, let them bless God that they are not yet destroyed by serpents because Christ has been lifted up even asthe serpent of brass was exalted above the camp of Israel! Remember our Lord's words to Nicode-mus-"As Moses lifted up theserpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but haveeternal life."
10. Neither murmur you, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer It is a dreadful habit to get into-thatof complaining against God. Occasional murmuring is doubtless sinful, but habitual murmuring becomes a very great evil! Iam afraid that there are some who quibble at God's Providence and at His Word till they come to be quibblers and nothing else!And what good is a man who can do nothing else but carp, quibble and criticize? O Beloved, "neither murmur you, as some ofthem also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer."
11. Now all these things happened to them for examples. They were like a book in which we might read our own history in largecharacters. We see ourselves foreshadowed in them and we read our happiness or our misery in their behavior.
11, 12. And they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Therefore let him that thinks hestands take heed lest he fall For if he begins to think that he stands, it may be that it is nothing but his own imagination-theremay be no real standing about it. And there is no surer sign of the falsity of a man's estimate of himself than the fact thatit is a high one. He that thinks himself good has not begun to be good, for the door of the palace of wisdom is humility,and the gate of the temple of virtue is lowliness of mind.
13, 14. There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to betempted above what you are able; but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear itTherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I would like to see this verse put over the top of every "sacramental" tablein every "church" in England-"Therefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." If this text were properly understood, everycrucifix would be broken to pieces and the altars, themselves, would be cleared away to make room for what should be there-theTable of the Lord-and we would have no more worship of visible things, which is idolatry! O you who are the dearly-belovedof God, flee from it! Keep as far from it as you can.
I remember reading of a man of God who was the rector of a certain parish and who had in the church a very ancient and famouspainted window of which he was somewhat proud. In the design there was a representation of the Godhead-the Father was there,and oh, how blasphemous! He was represented as an aged man! And, one day, this clergyman, who had seen no evil in the window,heard a rustic explaining to a companion that that was the God whom they worshipped. The rector did not hesitate for a moment,but he threw a stone right through that part of the painted window. I suppose that was an offense against the law of man,but certainly it was not against the Law of God! He would never have that figure replaced on any account, whatever, and Ithink that he did well! "Dearly Beloved, flee from idolatry." Put it out of your sight! Do not tamper with it, but hate itwith a perfect hatred! In God's eyes, it is one of the most fearful of sins. He has said, "I, the Lord your God, am a jealousGod," and He will have nothing to come between us and the pure and simple worship of His own invisible Self.