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is in thy camp." A nation, complete, and called to a great office and to the hope of a glorious destiny.
THE EXHORTATION TO LOYALTY
Since God has verified His promise, made four hundred years before, He has given ground of confidence that He will still lead them on to the full realization of the purpose He announced to Abraham,—that they should be a great nation, and in them all the nations of the earth should be blessed. The argument is the same as that of Paul—Phil. 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He that hath begun a good work in you will finish it."
But this confidence must not blind them to the truth that they are free, and therefore responsible; that on them rests the choice of good or evil.
The most solemn adjuration ever uttered is that recorded in Ch. xxx:15-20, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil, . . I call heaven and earth to record this day against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: Therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live." And the threatenings of Chapter XXVIII: are the most terrible description of the consequences of sin. It flashes like the lightning of Mt. Sinai. It reveals the glittering sword of the avenging God. It follows the deadly virus of sin to its utmost and most ultimate effects.
It is not an exaggeration, nor a concession to popular superstition, to attribute the failure of crops or the prevalence of disease to spiritual causes. The judgments here predicted are but the detailed predictions of the effects of sin given in more general terms in Gen. III:17-19. The agency of secondary causes is not ignored, but the general connection between unrighteousness and physical evil is too obvious to be denied. The order of causation is universal-unfaithfulness to God's law,
social disorder, waste and neglect, disease and famine, oppression and destruction. Such is the brief sad story of many a family and many a nation. "God is not mocked; whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
The vivid and minute specification of the evils that should follow disobedience was so wonderfully verified by the experience of Israel that it is cited as an argument for the late composition of this book; but it seems rather a remarkable proof of the reign of law. Everywhere and always such penalties, in some form and degree, must follow the forsaking of God's law, and the chain of cause and effect includes the moral world with the physical and social order.
The culmination of this terrible chapter of woes is very striking-v.68, "Ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bond men and bond women, and no man shall buy you.” Even the poor boon of slavery should be denied, and they should be cast out as refuse and rubbish to perish from the earth.
Happily the fruits of righteousness are no less certain than the wages of sin. Again and again Moses assures the people that if they choose God's way of life and keep His covenant, He will grant them every good thing. “If ye hearken to these judgments and keep and do them, the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant which He sware unto thy fathers, and He will love thee and bless thee." Chap. VII:12, 13. “And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldst keep all His commandments; and to make thee high above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be a holy people unto the Lord thy God as He hath spoken." Ch. XXVI:18, 19.
THE SUPREME LAW-HOLINESS
The prime distinction of pure religion is its demand that man shall strive to be holy. "Be ye holy, for I am holy” is the
absolute and unvarying standard set for every man. Moses and the Prophets, Christ and His Apostles, the Law and the Ritual of worship teach, at sundry times and in divers manners this same doctrine that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
I 1 This feature more than any other sets the religion of Jehovah apart from, and above, every other religion of the ancient world. The gods of the heathen world were worshiped and served as the allies of their worshipers, on a strictly business basis. The worshiper gave his sacrifice or service as the price of the favor he sought, and having rendered the service, claimed the favor by right of an implied contract. The question of moral character of the worshiper was not considered to be revelant in the matter. In the revelation given by Moses, the whole concept of worship was totally different. Here character is everything. The aim and purpose of all worship was to restore and perfect in man the image of a holy God. The demands of the law were all summed up in this one great object—to attain to holiness. The ritual, with all its sacrifices and ceremonies, was designed to teach and to promote this object, and the exhortations of the prophets and the disquisitions of philosophers and the visions of poets and seers, all were directed to this end: That the people might be taught and exercised in holiness. It is a religion of character, not of ceremony. Its purpose is salvation from sin and not release from punishment.
This fundamental doctrine is no where so clearly taught nor so intensely emphasized as in these great discourses. It is preached and repeated and proclaimed and illustrated as though Moses foresaw—as he doubtless did—that this was just the point, the vital point, which the people were likely to forget and forsake. It is but the old Mosaic doctrine that the great Isaiah preached so fervently. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord." "When ye
make many prayers I will not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash
Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes: Cease to do evil: learn to do well: seek judgment: righten the oppressed; judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." No ritual, however useful as a means of grace; no ceremonies, however sacred or divinely ordered, can ever be anything more than means to this endmere instruments for the accomplishment of this great purpose,—namely the attainment of a clean heart and a right spirit.
LOVE THE FULFILLING OF THE LAW
Conduct has in itself little moral quality. It is not what we do, but why we do it, that makes it good or bad. “Out of the heart are the issues of life.” The affections are the source of all our deeds. To love the right things is the essence of righteousness. There is no more profound philosophy than that which crieth, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might.” This our Lord, with His unerring wisdom, designated as "the first and great commandment." The unity of God implies the harmony of all the universe, and makes plain the absolute necessity of having our whole soul, mind, and might in accord with Him.
The decalogue is the definition of a righteous life. As such it must ever be the rule of conduct, but love for God is the only source from which the springs of perfect conduct flow. Without it such obedience as we render is a poor and slavish service, which has little relish of salvation in it, and soon breaks down to mere perfunctory and empty forms.
It is to be observed that this first and great commandment is complete, it covers the whole ground of duty; for the second, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” is "like unto it”;
that is, it is the same in principle—a corollary implied in the first.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The ten commandments—as we have already noticed, formed the core of the ritual of worship ordained by Moses at Mt. Sinai. The whole tabernacle service was arranged to throw the emphasis of its dramatic teaching on the righteous life defined in these commandments.
But this was not the only use of this wonderful code of law. It was the foundation of the social order, the standard of moral integrity, the fundamental basis of all legislation.
The political and social life of Israel was so intimately blended with their religion that they cannot be separated. We cannot conceive rightly of either without considering all. Their religion had right conduct for its aim. Their legislation was framed for moral purposes; to establish justice and promote mercy was the constant and consistent end of all their statutes and ordinances.
The Ten Commandments were given as the revelation of eternal principles which are embodied in the Constitution of the World. They are permanent as the law of gravitation is permanent, true as rules of arithmetic are true, because the world is made that way. They are absolute, unconditioned, eternal, because they define relations that are fixed in the order of the universe, and they state truths which are from the beginning
Thou shalt have no other gods, for there is none other. To regard God as sole, sovereign and supreme is the only way to conceive of the universe as it is. To suppose that there are other gods is false and misleading; just as to suppose that two and two are five. It is misapprehending the fact; it gives a false notion of the order of the world, and puts man in wrong relations to everything.