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The Commandments

The Commandments

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Published by glennpease



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Published by: glennpease on Oct 09, 2012
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THE COMMADMETSBY JOSEPH PARKER, D.D.Exod.xix.-xx.WE cannot get rid of Sinai in human education. If wepersuade ourselves by some false reasoning that thethings recorded in these chapters did not literally happen, we areplaying the fool with ourselves. God could only come to us at thefirst by the letter. He touches us by infinite accommodations of his own nature and by a gracious study of our own. This is theplague of the imperfect reason, that it will quibble about theincident, the wrappage, and decoration of things. It seems to beunable to penetrate to inmost thoughts, essences, qualities, andmeanings. Sinai is in every life. Let us part with as much aswe can of the merely external, and still there remains the fact thatin our lives are lightnings, and thunderings, and great trumpetingsof power, as well as solemn claims and urgent appeals to everyquality and force in our nature. Who has not been in stonyplaces in the carrying out of his education, — great, black, inhos-pitable localities, well called wildernesses; wild and howling deserts;mountains of stone ; embodiments of difficulty ; types of arduousdiscipline and inexorable demand ? Why play the fool ? Whymiss the wine of God's grace and wisdom by asking narrow orfoolish questions about the vessel which contains it, when withinthe whole mystery of life there stands the barren mountain — theinhospitable sand stretches mile on mile on every hand andnothing speaks to us in all the terrific scene but law, claim, andobligation — ^the tremendous demand of an unyielding creditor,who has come to arrest and imprison us until the uttermostfarthing be paid? Our spiritual experience makes the letterquite small. There are stiU those who are asking questionsabout the local. Sinai, the narrow and comparatively trivialincident, and are missing all the poetry of the occasion, nothearing the Divine and solemn voice, and not an wering the
Exod. xix,-xx.] THE COMMADMETS. 155sublime demand for more perfect purification, completer refine-ment, and profounder obedience. Why not start our inquiriesfirom the other side ? — ^What is this voice of law ? What is thisstandard of discipline which forces itself upon our moral attention ?What is this claim that is pressed upon us by every variety of expression which follows us^ now affrontingly, now pleading,according to the moral phase which we exhibit towards it ? Didwe begin our inquiry at that end, and so come along the line of revelation, Sinai, the local mountain, and the desert, and alltrumpetings, thunderings, lightnings, tempests, all upheavals,and earthquakes, and terrible scenes, would fall into their rightproportion and relation, and the one sovereign thought would be, — Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?Instead of looking at the commandments one by one, and thusrunning the risk of missing their whole meaning, let us look atthe commandments in their totality and call them One Command-ment with many different phases, and aspects, and bearings uponhuman life.What is the teaching of that great law pronounced fromheaven ? Is there any grace in it ? Is there any touch of love ?Is there any trembling of pathos ? Is it all hard iron ? Is it alltremendous exaction, pitiless, tyrannous claim ? Have we alwaysread the commandments aright? and have we been just to theirinnermost meaning when we have characterised them as hard ?I think not What do these commandments urge upon us? — A right view of God. That is the first injunction. We arecalled to right theology — not of a formal and technical, but of amoral and spiritual kind. The great movement of the heartmust first of all be God-ward. We cannot work until the soulis brought into the right mood and proper quality by a fullperception of the sovereignty and righteous claim and tendergrace of God. We cannot break in upon the commandmentswhere we please, and obey the law in parts and parcels. Thereis a temptation to think we can do so. We are sometimes
tempted to think that we can keep the eighth commandment, butnot the fifth ; the fourth, but not the ninth ; the tenth, but not thefirs^ and so on. That is impossible. To keep one command*ment is to keep all ; to offend in one commandment is to break alL This may not seem to be so on the surface ; but a complete156 THE PEOPLE'S BIBLE. [Exod.xix.-xx.analysis of the occasion and circumstances will result in thefinding that the commandments are one law, complete, indivisible,only set forth in points and aspects for the convenience of learners, and as an accommodation to the infirmity or incomplete-ness of children. First of all, then, we are called to a right viewof God. We cannot move one step in a right direction untilsomething like this view has been realised. Every succeedingcommandment will be dumb to us, if we have not entered intothe mystery of the first. What is God to us ? What are hisclaims upon us? What is there in us that responds to hispresence, and that, so to say, reveals him before he comes withany obvious manifestation of his personality upon us ? Are weakin? Are we his children? Is there any sound in the ear orthe heart which, being interpreted, means, — "In the beginningGod made man in his own image and likeness " ? That is ourfirst study. We shall be mere moralists if we begin at thesecond commandment. That is so-called legalism and morality, — ^the pedantry which snaps off the commandments from thegreat central stem and treats them as separate particles, asisolated possibilities of virtue. We must come from the Divinepoint, from the spiritual communion of the soul with God, andthen the commandments will come upon our souls as appealsto our power, and as sweet necessities, not as arbitrary imposi-tions and tyrannies.What next have we in this consolidated commandment?Having a right view of God, we have a right view, in the nextplace, of labour. God condescends to take notice of our workingways, of our allotments and appointments of a temporal kind.The voice of mercy is in this injunction regarding labour. In

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