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Phinehas.

Phinehas.

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Published by glennpease
BY THOMAS ARNOLD, D.D.


Numbers xxv. 12, 13.

Behold, I give unto Phinehas my covenant of peace: and he shall have
it and hit seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priest-
hood ; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement
for the children of Israel,
BY THOMAS ARNOLD, D.D.


Numbers xxv. 12, 13.

Behold, I give unto Phinehas my covenant of peace: and he shall have
it and hit seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priest-
hood ; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement
for the children of Israel,

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Published by: glennpease on Oct 04, 2013
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PHIEHAS.BY THOMAS AROLD, D.D.umbers xxv. 12, 13.Behold, I give unto Phinehas my covenant of peace: and he shall haveit and hit seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priest-hood ; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonementfor the children of Israel,Thebe was a time, not many ages ago, when this passage,and the act of Phinehas to which it refers, were read withdelight, and held up as models for imitation ; when to bezealous even to slaying was accomited one of the virtueswhich should mark a servant of the Lord. After thistemper had had its course, and had been displayed invarious acts of cruelty, and of treachery and cruelty com-bined, there came, as usual, a reaction. Men saw whatcrimes had been committed under the name of religious zeal,and from an abuse of the Old Testament ; and they beganto think religious zeal a very dangerous thing, and thestudy of the Old Testament was suffered to go into neglect ; — ^nothing was so much spoken of as the mildness, andforbearance, and tolerance of Christ's gospel. Then, aswas natural, devotion became less fervent, and godlyfear grew less. If men did not commit crimes from usingthe word of God amiss, so neither was there that growthin holiness which is the consequence of using it aright.Men felt that little had been forgiven them, and thereforethey loved little. Again, therefore, there has come theVOL. TI. E50 PHIEHAS.
 
reaction ; again the spirit of zeal is kindling ; and again itseems likely that it will be a zeal not according to know-ledge ; that it will again, as heretofore, dishonour Grod bythe follies and the crimes which it commits in Hisname.Yet we must beware of another reaction to the oppositeextreme. Abhorring and fleeing from that false andwicked zeal with which fanatics serve their idols whilethey profess to be serving God, we must yet earnestlystrive not to be ourselves without true zeal. The story of Phinehas, the severer lessons of the Old Testament, areand ever will be needed ; — the blessing which God pro-nounced upon him is no idle, no dead word ; it still livesfor all those who tread according to the spirit, and notaccording to the letter, in the steps of Phinehas. For wecould not reasonably hold the Old Testament to l)e a partof God's revelations to men, if the lessons which it con-tains, and the characters which it holds up as examples intheir relations to God, were not founded upon truth. Godis for ever the same, and in our relations to God we, too,are the same as we ever have been. It is earth and ourearthly relation^ which change ; and as our outward prac-tice has to do with these, so our actions must be oftenvery different from those praised in the Old Testament ;while the principle from which such action sprang, andwhich made them praiseworthy, is still good and mostimportant for us, and still must bring forth its practicalfruit, although that fruit will be no longer the same as itwas in times past.This applies particularly to religious zeal, — a feelingwhich is brought forward strongly in the Old Testament,as one most needful to be enforced, and most acceptable toGod. And it is surely no less needed now, and no lessacceptable : God being still, as in old times, hidden fromour sight, and we being continually tempted to neglect
 
PHIEHAS. 51Him by our own evil nature, and by the very circumstancesof our condition on earth, — it is quite as much required asever that our zeal towards Him should be enkindled ; it isquite as just that they who are zealous in His serviceshould be regarded as the objects of His love.If I might be allowed the comparison, many of thelessons of the Old Testament, and the story of Phinehas inparticular, resemble, so far as we are concerned now, ourLord's parable of the unjust steward. There are some whohave found that parable difficulty some who have misinter-preted it, and others who from horror of its misinterpreta-tion would perhaps have been glad to neglect it alto-gether. Yet that parable contains a lesson which wegreatly need ; and though we may make it minister untosin by misunderstanding it, yet we may not, therefore,pass it by. as useless. There, as in the story of Phinehas,a principle most valuable is combined with a particularillustration of it which in the one case is always to becondenmed, in the other is deserving of condemnation now.The forethought of the dishonest steward extorted some-thing like respect from his master, even though shown inacts of dishonesty. The zeal of Phinehas is held up to ouradmiration, although the manner in which he showed itwould be as sinful for us to imitate as the steward's dis-honesty. But transplant, so to speak, this forethoughtand this zeal to the soil and climate of Christianity, andthey lose inmiediately all the bad qualities, all the harsh-nesses which in their wild and imperfect state still clungto them. Christian forethought unites the innocence of the dove with the serpent's wisdom ; Christian zeal can beno longer shown in acts of violence; its acts are asblameless and loving as its spirit is fervent and self-denying.

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