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“ If of parents I came who honor'd thy name,
'Twas thy wisdom appointed it so."
So the agency, instrumentality, and means, of spiritual birth, are the appointment of Infinite power, wisdom, and goodness. (2) That the Christian’s life is no trifle. Life has its prescribed relations, and these have their appropriate duties to be discharged according to established rules.
(3) That this life, — this “course," is peculiarly adapted to individual capacities, circumstances, and responsibilities “My course."
Secondly : That the Christian's life is a ministry received of the Lord Jesus. “He died for all that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again.” The babes who do not live go to heaven at once ; those who live should serve Him first on earth. “ Ye serve the Lord Christ,” is true of every
Christian. “None of us,”—whether in the pulpit or in the pew, in the Sabbath school or in the mission field, possessing one talent or ten talents,—"none of us liveth to himself.” Some vainly imagine that paid officials only have received this ministry. Nothing can be more erroneous. They may have received a ministry from the crown or the college, very different from the ministry received of the Lord Jesus ;-and they and we may confound things that differ.
II. THE ESSENTIAL WORK OF THE CHRISTIAN'S LIFE IS TESTIFY THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD." There are two methods of bearing testimony :
First : By word, oral or written. No man on earth is without evidence that he is debtor to God's grace.
Let him frankly confess it. Let Christians especially proclaim the fact that the gospel of the grace of God is the only sovereign remedy for a world's woes. Many speak and write as if their life's work consisted in testifying of a human creed. This may be done, and no testimony borne to the gospel of the grace of God.
Secondly : By deed this completes the other. For Christians, professing that by the grace of God they are what they are, to prove selfish and unforgiving, is no very convincing testimony on behalf of the gospel of grace. And whatever other service we perform, if this be neglected or spoiled, the business of life is neglected or unfinished, and no marvel if the course be not finished with joy.
III. THAT THE CONSTANT AIM OF EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE TO FINISH HIS COURSE WITH JOY. “Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might,” &c. The following thoughts are suggested :
1. Many who appear to enter their Christian course with joy very soon become morose and gloomy, and continue so to the end. Is it because other than the ministry received of the Lord Jesus engrosses their attention?
2. Some who begin their own course joyously enough seem afterwards to fall altogether out of love with it. They would, if to be believed, rather finish anybody's course than their own. Only give them the talents of such a one, the wealth of this man, the time of that, and they will live to some purpose.
3. Some get along in such a strange way that they spoil every service they attempt, and do not finish a part, much less the whole course—the whole ministry.
4. And not a few take an opposite course. No marvel that the sun of so many professors seems to set under a cloud. If more would imitate Paul's life their end would be like his. “I have fought the good fight, finished my course, kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.”
SUBJECT :-Cities of Refuge. “And they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood."Joshua xx. 3.
“ Who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." -Heb. vi. 18.
Jnalysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Fourth. REVENGE is a corruption of that Divine instinct of justice which our Righteous Maker has implanted within us, as a reflection of Himself. As a corrupt principle, it is as old as the fall, as universal as man. The most ancient nations regarded revenge for bloodshed, not only as legitimate, but as incumbent. It was considered the duty of the nearest kinsman to the murdered man to wreak vengeance upon the guilty head of him who dealt the murderous blow. This avenger was called the GOEL ;-one who demanded restitution of blood. He in those distant days, was bound by the law of society to shed the blood of him who had slain his kinsman. In some parts of Europe, even in these latter days, blood revenge is popular. It is calculated that about four hundred persons annually lose their lives in Sardinia by this principle of blood revenge. Some of the Italians never pass over an insult without retaliation, either on the offender, or his family.
Whilst Moses, the great Legislator of Israel, did not destroy this principle of revenge, or abrogate its customary development, he introduced a principle of mercy to regulate its operation. That principle was embodied in the establishment of the “Cities of Refuge.” These Cities were founded for a twofold purpose ; first, to afford effectual protection to the individual who had unintentionally and by accident destroyed a brother's life, and secondly, to procure for him who had done so deliberately, an opportunity for a calm and fair trial. To give the whole country the advantage of this institution, there were six in number—three on the west of the Jordan ;-Hebron in Judah, Shechem in Ephraim, and
Kadish in Naphtali; and three on the east of the Jordan ;Bezen in Rueben, Ramoth in Gilead, and Golan in Mannasseh.
Whether these places of Refuge were intended as material representations of the spiritual protection which the Gospel provides for the sinner or not, is a question which discussion has not yet settled. One thing is clear, that they are admirably adapted as telling illustrations; and for this purpose I shall use them at present. It is indeed not unlikely, that Paul had this Jewish institution in view when he spoke of the “ Refuge set before us.”
Before I mark out those remarkably salient points of resemblance between the protection which these “Cities” provided for the man-slayer, and the protection which the Gospel provides for the sinner, it seems advisable, in order to guard against wrong impressions, to notice a few of those points in which there is no correspondence between them.
First: The one afforded only a temporary protection for the body. The City of Refuge did not shield against death itself, but only against death from the hand of an avenger. Death would still come to him in some form. It left even the body unprotected from death itself, and it offered no safety for the soul. The Gospel, on the contrary, is a protection for the whole man, and for the whole man for ever. “He that believeth on me shall never die.” “I give unto my sheep eternal life, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands.”
Secondly: The one afforded protection only to the unfortunate, the other to the guilty. The man who murdered in cold blood, and by purpose, could find no lasting protection here. If he reached the city before the blow of the avenger descended on his head, it was only to be brought forth to be executed by public justice. But the refuge of the Gospel is for the guilty. Man's kindness only extends to the unfortunate. Asylums for the unfortunate ; chains, dungeons, scaffolds, for the guilty ;—this is man's policy. God's mercy extends to the guilty. “Let the wicked.” &c. “Come now, and let us reason together.” Mannasseh fled to the Gospel
and was safe ; so did David, so did Magdalene, so did Saul of Tarsus, &c.
Thirdly: The protection which the one afforded involved the sacrificing of certain privileges, that of the other insures every privilege. The man-slayer in the city, whilst he felt his body safe from the stroke of the avenger felt himself deprived of much ;-Liberty, Home, Society, &c. But the protection of the Gospel insures all good. "All things are yours," &c.
Fourthly: Those who enjoyed the protection of the one would, desire to return to their former scenes, not so with those who enjoy the protection of the other. The man-slayer knew that he would be restored to his old scenes after the death of the High Priest. He therefore desired this event. The mother of the High Priest, knowing the strength of the desire to be liberated, and fearing that the prisoners would pray for the death of her son, treated them with special kindness. But he who enjoys the protection of the Gospel would not go back to the old scenes of life for the world.
“What things were gain to me these I counted loss for Christ,” &c.
But let me notice some of the more illustrative features of resemblance :
I. THE CITIES
WERE OF DIVINE APPOINTMENT; SO IS THE PROTECTION OFFERED IN THE GOSPEL. The cities of refuge were not the inventions of human philanthropy, they were the ordinations of Heaven. “The Lord spake unto Joshua, saying, speak to the children of Israel, saying, appoint out for your cities of refuge whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses." (Joshua xx. 1–9; Exodus xxi. 13; Numbers xxxiii. 6–14; Deut. xix. 249.) The Gospel Refuge is of Divine appointment. “Behold I lay in Zion," &c. " Whom God hath set forth,” &c.
IS THE GOSPEL.
II. THE CITIES OF REFUGE WERE PROVISIONS AGAINST IMMINENT DANGER, SO
The man-slayer had violated a social law, the great law of Society. “With what measure yo mete it shall be measured to you again.”