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A H O M I L Y
Achanism; or Self-seeking a Hindrance to
the Victories of Christianity.
" There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”—Joshua vii. 13.
DLOUMANITY moves on, progress is undoubtedly
its destiny ; but its progress is not like that of the river, which has neither pause nor retrogression; but resembling more the incoming tides
which are marked by successive ebb and flow. There are checks to the march-obstructions to the river, drag-chains on the wheel.
There was a check now to the advancing movements of the Israelites ;-and there are three things noteworthy connected with its obstructive force.
First : It was sudden. A day or two before our text was enunciated, the onward course of the Israelites was most promising. Every gale seemed propitious, every surge heaved them forward. Their prospects were bright, all hearts were jubilant. Jordan, even at the period of its swelling, had been safely crossed. The Captain of the Lord's Host had met, close to the walls of Jericho, Joshua, their commander, who gave him directions and inspired him with confidence. Before the blasts of the “rams' horns” the massive ramparts had fallen. The Canaanites were already struck with terror, and gave indications of a bloodless and unresisting submis
sion. The entire conquest of the land, appeared to them a thing at once easy and close at hand. The Aborigines would surely yield up up their possession without the toil or peril of a single battle. Their feet already stood on the goodly land of which they had often heard their fathers speak in rapture, and which had charmed the imagination of their hoary sires, through long ages of oppression, under the heartless tyranny of the Pharaohs. Its fruitful fields, its picturesque scenery, and its balmy gales ;—the childish terror which the inhabitants everywhere manifested at their appearance; and the consciousness that Jehovah was with them, must have made their hearts buoyant and glad with the brightest hopes. But in this chapter they are all sadness. Yesterday in bright sunshine, to-day in deepest gloom. The inhabitants of the little city Ai had discomfited three thousand of their number, and slain about twelve times as many more. Wherefore," we are told “the hearts of the people melted and became as water"—tame and spiritless. In this reverse
we have a picture of the history of How great the vicissitudes of human life !—Meteorologists may tell from to-day what will be the weather tomorrow, but what mortal can tell in human history what one hour will bring forth ?
This check was not only sudden but :-
One man clouded at the present moment the hopes of the whole Jewish nation. That man was Achan. petrated a wrong which had incurred the displeasure of Israel's God, and reduced the whole community to moral prostration and sadness. Wonderful is the power of one individual for good or evil. The history of the world furnishes many instances of a solitary individual influencing whole communities and generations of men.
Sometimes we find a truly great and good man, by quickening words and noble deeds, breathing a spirit into his age, which acts as the vital breeze of Spring,—touching everything into new life; and sometimes on the other hand, a vile, vicious spirit
He had per
blighting everything into the wild waste of winter. So great is the influence which one man can exert ! “None liveth unto himself.” We are all centres of influence-separate fountains, whence streams that shall refresh and bless, or that shall corrupt and curse, must flow.
This check to progress is not only sudden and brought about by one man but :
Thirdly: By the ONE SIN of one man. It would seem that from some of the inhabitants of Jericho-over whom the Israelites had achieved a signal victory-Achan had stolen a costly garment of Babylonian manufacture, and also a wedge or ingot of gold. (ver. 21.) This one sin of this one man incurred the displeasure of Jehovah, bringing darkness and distress upon the whole of their number. One sin of one individual may injure a whole community. That men do suffer for other people's sin is a fact which no one can dispute -a fact not merely recorded in the Bible, but written almost on every page of history. A fact against which I am not inclined to whisper one complaint; but for which the more
* The city of Jericho before it was taken was put under that awful ban, of which there are other instances in the early Scripture history, whereby all the inhabitants (excepting Rahab and her family) were devoted to destruction—all the combustible goods to be consumed by fire, and all the metals to be consecrated to God. This vow of devotement was rigidly observed by all the troops when Jericho was taken, save by one man, Achan, a Judahite, who could not resist the temptation of secreting an ingot of gold, a quantity of silver, and a costly Babylonish garment, which he buried in his tent, dreaming that his sin was hid. But God made known this infraction, which, the vow having been made by the nation as one body, had involved the whole nation in his guilt. The Israelites were defeated, with serious loss, in their first attack upon Ai; and as Joshua was well assured that this humiliation was designed as the punishment of a crime which had inculpated the whole people, he took immediate measures to discover the criminal. As in other cases, the matter was referred to the Lord, by the lot, and the lot ultimately indicated the actual criminal. The conscience-stricken offender then confessed his crime to Joshua, and his confession being verified by the production of his ill-gotten trea. sure, the people, actuated by the strong impulse with which men tear up, root and branch, a polluted thing, hurried away not only Achan,
I think, the more I am disposed to admire the wise and benign Ruler of the world.* Sometimes when we reprove men for their sins, they are apt to feel, and sometimes to say, What does it concern you that I sin ? may I not do what I will ? Am I not my own master in this respect ? I am to answer for myself. Why should you interfere ? To all this we are bound to reply, that we reprove you for your sin, and warn you against it, not merely on your own account but on public grounds. Your sin injures others—as the sin of Achan injured the whole of Israel ; so your sin is injuring the community at large.
Our position is, that a covetous self-seeking spirit is a check to the progress of christianity.
This principle applies :
PROMOTE THEIR OWN
I. TO THE EFFORTS OF MEN INDIVIDUAL CARISTIANITY. As truly as God enjoined upon the Israelites to take possession of the Promised Land, He has enjoined upon every man to culture his own heart, “to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts"; "to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour,”—"to sow to the Spirit”; or, to borrow a figure from the case before us, to exterminate the moral Canaanite from his own soul and
but his tent, his goods, his spoil, his cattle, his children, to the valley (afterwards called) of Achan, north of Jericho, where they stoned him and all that belonged to him ; after which the whole was consumed with fire, and a cairn of stones raised over the ashes. The severity of this act, as regards the family of Achan, has provoked some remark. Instead of vindicating it, as is generally done, by the allegation that the mem bers of Achan's family were probably accessories to his crime after the fact, we prefer the supposition that they were included in the doom by one of those sudden impulses of indiscriminate popular vengeance to which the Jewish people were exceedingly prone, and which, in this case, it would not have been in the power of Joshua to control by any authority which he could under such circumstances exercise. It is admitted that this is no more than a conjecture; but, as such, it is at least worth as much as, and assumes considerably less than, the conjectures which have been offered by others. (Josh. vii.)
*A Homily on this subject will appear in our next number.
to take possession of the holy land of his inner being, and build up there a temple for God. Every Christian professes to be engaged in this cause. But this self-seeking principle in the camp of the soul will hinder the work. An avaricious, worldly spirit in the heart, will be as an Achan, obstructing the divine mission. It is common to hear Christians mourning their spiritual barrenness; regretting their little progress in the great work of self-discipline and personal sanctification. They refer the cause sometimes to the circumstances in which they are placed, and sometimes to the profitless ministry which they attend; whereas there is some Achan withinunholy principle or passion that is neutralizing every effort, and rendering the spirit powerless to strike one conquering blow. There is an accursed thing” in the midst of thee, O brother! thou canst “not stand before thine enemies," until thou take "away the accursed thing."
This principle applies :
II. TO THE EFFORTS WHICH INDIVIDUAL CHURCHES MAKE TO PROMOTE CHRISTIANITY IN
THEIR OWN NEIGHBOURHOOD. Every Christian Church as well as every individual member is commanded to hold forth the Word of Life. Christians are “ the light of the world,” the “salt of the earth.” It is as much the duty of every Church thoroughly to evangelize the neighborhood in which it is situated, as it was the duty of the Israelites to enter upon the conquest of Canaan. But how truly ineffective in these days are Christian efforts for this end. A moral heathenism surrounds almost every Church in England. London is as corrupt as any city under Heaven. Why are Churches thus powerless? There are Achans in the camp. A true Church is an assembly of men all of whom are influenced by one master sentiment-love to God and humanity; and whose aim is to render all the circumstances of life subservient to the interests of the soul, the good of the race, and the glory of God. This is a true Church. But are all, who profess to be its members, of this spirit? Are there no Judases in the modern Church-men