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The Results of Obedience.

The Results of Obedience.

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Exod. xix. 1-13
Exod. xix. 1-13

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Oct 09, 2012
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ISRAEL having gone from Rephidim, came to the desert of Sinai, and there Moses, having gone up the mountain, received from God a distinct message, " If ye will obey my voice, ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me." This b a tabernacle without form ; this is a sanctuary not made with hands. If we caa seize the meaning of this passage we shall have in our hands one of the key-paragraphs of the whole history. Let us try to classify the thoughts which grow as in a garden planted by the Lord himself; a garden whose hedges are far away ; for he whose mercy endureth for ever makes no small gardens; he would, indeed, have no desert land. Here is a Gospel originating in heaven. Moses is not the leading speaker. o desire has been expressed by the people that any such arrangement as this should be completed. The movement is always from above. The rains that water the earth, that make it bring forth and bud, are clouds far above our heads and far beyond our influence. The great thoughts all come down tipped with a light above the brightness of the sun. If any man lack wisdom he is to ask of God. It is not a plant that is grown in the clay ; it is a flower that blossoms and blooms in the eternal paradise. Keep this steadily in mind in the perusal of the sacred record, that no great thought ever came from the human side. Man has had but to reply ; the infinite appeals of judgment and of grace have come out of the hidden heavens. We are, therefore, debtors to grace. We have nothing that is worth having that is of our own invention or manufacture. All eternal thought and all eternal feeling, being wise, pure, and beneficent, can be traced to him who giveth all good and perfectness. This is the foundation thought ow comes a Divine method which attests the heavenliness of its origin, having about it all the mystery of the infinite and

unspeakable. God says : " If ye will obey my voice indeed, andkeep my covenant" Can he not make them do so ? There is no compulsion in worship, or in morals, or in true spiritual obedience. A child can turn his back upon God and treat the Almighty with suUenncss. The tiniest knee can stiffen itself, and decline to bow

Exod. xix. 1-13.] THE RESULTS OF OBEDIE CE. 149 before the heavens. In its bodily relation, it can be crushed, broken, destroyed ; but representing the mind, the heart, the will, God cannot bend that obstinate iron. So God begins by seeking consent. Man has to be a party to this marvellous covenant If we sing, it is because our love is so burning that we cannot keep back the music ; if we obey, it is because our hearts consent to the statute which demands obedience. Has God, then, given any detailed laws up to this time which he means the people to accept ? o. Here is the wondrousness of the method, the laws — using that word in the plural number — have yet to come. Mark the Divine wisdom — ^the wondrous reach of the Divine thought To have come with ten words, or a thousand lines of statute and precept would have excited argument and discontent, criticism, and possible rebellion. ot a word was said about the detail. God will not light the mountain until the sacrifice is prepared ; the smoke, and the fire, and the trumpet will come byand-by. What is first wanted ? The spirit, not the act, of obedience. Everything turns upon that distinction. God asks broadly and comprehensively for obedience. He must have a spirit in tune with the music of his own purpose, and then, as to the separate melodies that must be played, they will fall into their right place, and will assume new relations and new value, because of the spirit of obedience which has been enkindled and sanctified in the human heart. That is the Divine philosophy — not to come with two tables of stone, and to invite detailed criticism and wordy controversy, but to face the creature, as it were, and to say, " Wilt thou obey thy Creator in very deed ? * The creature answers gladly, "I will.'* After that you may have as many tables of stone as the occasion requires;, or as human development may call for in the ages of education yet to dawn

upon an advancing race. Mark the wondrousness of the Divine providence, and the Divine method : First, the spirit of obedience is created ; then the separate words, or individual and singular laws, are uttered to a prepared heart Probably it could be proved that a great deal of our conscious disobedience has arisen from our looking at the law we have to obey, rather than preparing the heart to obey the whole counsel of God. You have no right to look at the laws, until you have promised obedience, and pledged with an oath of

150 THE PEOPLE'S BIBLE. [Exod.xir.1-13. the heart that you will be true to the Divine proposals. Men first disqualify themselves for judgment, and then proceed to criticism ; they say, " What are the Commandments ? " That is not a permissible inquiry. We are not dealing with plurals and details, with daily discipline and momentary demands ; we are dealing with the soul of things, with the spirit of man, with the mood and temper of the heart Granted that all is right in this direction, then turn to the laws, and you will take them up as a very little thing, understanding the sweet music of him who came to '* fulfil the law." " My yoke is easy, and my burden is light," — a most heavy yoke and a burden grievous beyond all other weight, if we come to it without a prepared spirit ; but having filled the heart with preparedness, and filled the mouth with a song of adoration and a hymn of loyalty, then let the tables of ' stone come to us : the stones shall have no hardness, and the law shall no longer be arbitrary, but part of the happy music and sacred necessity which characterise the whole order and intent of God. Here is the explanation of the Divine preferences which have distressed so many hearts under the cruel name of sovereignty and election. There need be no torture in using those words. If we feel distressed by them, it is because we have come upon them along the wrong path. They are beautiful and noble words when set in their places according to the Divine intent "Then

ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." Is that partiality in any exclusive sense ? ot at all ; it is really meant to be inclusive. God elects humanity^ "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom." In what sense ? In the ordinary sense — namely, a great aggregate of subjects ruled by one arbitrary and despotic king? In no such sense. The literal meaning is, ye shall all be kings. ow you see the meaning of that great name, " King of kings " — not king of an individual monarch here and there, as in Britain, or Russia, or China, but of all believers. All obedient souls are lifted up unto kinghood. We are royal equals if we obey Heaven's will, and God is King of kings, — King of all. We are a royal generation. All this language is t3rpical. Beautiful is the historical line when seized and wisely applied. Let us attempt such seizure and a7>plication. The firstborn were

Exodxix. 1-13.] THE RESULTS OF OBEDIE CE. 151 chosen, and the firstborn were to be priests. In what sense are the firstborn chosen ? ot as relegating the afterbom to positions subordinate and inferior ; but in the sense of being their pledge and seaL God has the eldest son, and therefore — that is the sacred logic — ^he has all the other children. Then the laws regarding the priesthood underwent a change, and the family of Aaron was called. We proceed from an individual, namely, the firstbom, to a family, namely, the Aaronic stock. But why were they chosen ? That all the children of Aaron might also be priests, in the truly spiritual and eternal sense, though not in ofiicial and formal name and status. Then the family was deposed and a tribe is chosen — ^the tribe of Levi. Mark how the history accumulates and grows up into a prophecy and an aigumentt First the individual, then the family, then the tribe, then the Son of man, — ^absorbing all the past, gathering up into its true and official meaning all priesthood, all intercession. There is one Advocate with the Father, the Man Christ Jesus. A new light thus begins to dawn upon the cloud. There is nothing arbitrary in the movement of God when we can penetrate its infinite philosophy. Will God have the first-fruits of the harvest

field ? He claims all such. Why will he claim the first-fruits ? That in having the first-fruits he might have all the field. He will not take the whole wheat acreage of the world into his heavens and devour our poor loaf of bread ; but he will take the first ear of com that we can find in all the fields, and, having taken that, he says : '' In giving me this you have given me all." He is not to be charged with arbitrariness and severity because he takes one little ear of com, or one poor little sheep, and says, '' This is mine." He is to be charged with a nobler grace than our fancy had dreamed, for he takes a visit to the poor prisoner as a visit paid to himself, bread given to the poor as bread given to the Triune God. The lifting up of one sheaf of wheat and waving it before him is not the result of an arbitrary sovereignty, but is sign, symbol, and t3rpe that we have given him all — ^that '' the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." The Lord said to the man whom he constituted the new head of the race : '' In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Think of that noble inclusion when you speak of elective sovereignty and reprobating judgment

ISJ THE PEOPLE'S BIBLE. [ExoA xix. 1-13, This also throws light upon the vexed question of inspiration. We ask, " Why were some inspired ?" You say Moses and David, Isaiah and Daniel, and John and Paul — they were inspired that we might all be inspired. They are the firstborn; they are the leaders and prototypes. Because Paul was inspired, it does not fallow that the Holy Ghost is withheld from us. The Spirit is the abiding Comforter; he is the possession of the whole redeemed and r^enerated Church. He will never leave us. Know ye not that ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost? Do not dwarf the mighty argument by asking shallow questions about the relative degrees of inspiration. We cannot discuss an inquiry which lies beyond the evidence at our command. Enough it is to know that the Holy Ghost is Christ's gift to the whole believing Church. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children : how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him I" So the whole idea of

priestism is destroyed, and the whole conception of arbitrary and despotic sovereignty goes down, and must be branded as an unspeakable blasphemy. We are all kings and priests unto God and the Father; we are all royal, chosen, elect, precious. This conception alone fits the character of him who is symbolised by the firmament, and who gives good things to the unthankful and to the evil, as well as to the grateful and the good. Here is God's conception of "an holy nation." A holy nation in the Divine view is an obedient nation, a nation living in the spirit of obedience. Let the spirit of obedience be right, and the letter of obedience will soon become right also. First must come the spirit, then the literal obedience. So in all things. Our Christian character in its integrity and massiveness is destroyed by our foolish attention in the wrong place to detailed precepts and instances. It is notably so in the matter of Christian libe~ irearebut few who understand the philosophy of joyous 1 in this department What is wanting ? The total were a question of detail as to whether this or that I be given, or the whole appeal be shirked, then a nations would torment the conscience and the judgment such law. We give the all, and therefore it becomes o give the little particular. But until we have given cannot give the other. It may be extorted from our

Exod. xix. 1-13.] THE RESULTS OF OBEDIE CE. 153 hands by a complaining conscience, but it is no acceptable oblation on the altar of the Church. It is notably so in the matter of time. How do we come to give one day in seven to Christ's worship ? We do so, when we do it at all properly, because we have first given all the seven daySp It is easy to give^ one in particular when we have consecrated the whole. The one day is the wheatsheaf taken up from the harvest of time, and God says, receiving it, " You have given me all the days in giving me this, the queenliest of the seven." This is the meaning of still being under the law and not under grace, namely, that we are striving to do little things, and separate laws, and keep particular commandments with which we have no business, until the soul is adjusted by the meridian of the eternal sovereignty, and the whole spirit goes out only anxious to obey. Read the commandments in the light of this explanation, and how easy they are. " Tkou shalt have no other gods before nte" The soul is amazed — as if the conception of having any other God could have dawned upon such glowing love. *' Honour thy father and thy mother" The spirit springs up, and says, *' othing can be easier, more delightful, or in accord with my wish." " Thou shalt not steal" The heart is, as it were, momentarily and subtly affronted — as if such a commandment could be needed, where the sacrifice of the body is so complete. Was the human obedience first pledged? So was the Divine promise. The way of the Lord is equal. Did he who asked for the obedience lay down the ground of his claim? He did, saying, "Ye- have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself." First the hijstory, then the obedience, then the promise, then the detailed law; and the detailed law coming after the ' promise becomes an easy burden, and a yoke Ho light as to be like a necklet of jewels.

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