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LECTURE 399. That we must neither raise nor harbour suspicions. They were about forty thousand prepared for war," of the two tribes and a half, that had “passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses spake unto them.” Ch. 4. 12. And these were now to return, with much riches, of cattle, and of gold and silver, brass and iron; and to divide the spoil of their enemies with their brethren. This was some compensation for the pain and inconvenience of having been so long absent from their homes; they would have the pleasure and the honour of being bearers of much wealth to those whom they had left behind. And from their faithfulness in fulfilling their engagement, we may learn, that no present inconvenience or pain must prevent us from doing all that we are bound to do, in keeping the charge of the commandment of the Lord our God. Their faithfulness in time past did by no means prevent Joshua from charging them most solemnly to love God, and to cleave to Him with all their heart, and with all their soul, for the time which was to come. Neither must we, however faithful we bave been heretofore, be above receiving admonition, and putting ourselves under renewed obligations, to do all our duty for the future. See how nigh to transgression these very persons soon afterwards approached, in one of the most plain commandments of the Lord, that which forbade them to sacrifice in any place but one! See how great a risk they ran of dishonouring God, in an act which they did on purpose to maintain his honour! This came of acting hastily, unadvisedly, and without taking sufficient care, that their good should not be evil spoken of. See Rom. 14. 16. They ought to have remembered, how easily this building a large altar might be taken for an attempt on their part to set up a distinct worship for themselves. They ought to have apprized their brethren of the other tribes, that they had no such unlawful design. If it is our duty not to suspect evil, it is our duty also to give no ground for ill suspicions. "If it is not well for our brethren to suspect us of doing wrong, neither is it well for us to do that which has a wrong appearance. Certainly the other
tribes were over hasty in their first resolution, “to go to war” with their brethren, as rebels against God. They appear to have been more jealous for the honour of the Lord, than careful to preserve the bond of peace, by first making due enquiry, how far God's honour really was concerned. Thus it is that divisions usually grow up and take effect. One party is not careful enough not to give offence. The other party is too hasty to take offence. One party goes too nigh to the borders of what is right. The other party presumes that what is questionable is wrong. How much better to pause, and to enquire ! How much better to hope all things on the slightest ground, in favour of our brethren, than to believe any thing groundlessly against them!
The two tribes and a half explain their intentions. 15 And they came unto the chil-" be in rebellion, or if in transgresdren of Reuben, and to the chil- sion against the LORD, (save us dren of Gad,and to the halftribe of not this day,) Manasseh, unto the land of Gi
23 That we have built us an altar lead, and they spake with them, to turn from following the Lord, saying,
or if to offer thereon burnt offer-
18 But that ye must turn away in the LORD: so shall your chil-
with the prepare to build us an altar, not for whole congregation of Israel. burnt offering, nor for sacrifice:
19 Notwithstanding, if the land 27 But that it may be a witness of your possession be unclean, between us, and you, and our then pass ye over unto the land generations after us, that we of the possession of the Lord, might do the service of the Lord wherein the Lord's tabernacle before him with our burnt offerdwelleth, and take possession ings, and with our sacrifices, and among us: but rebel not against with our peace offerings; that the Lord, nor rebel against us, your children may not say to our in building you an altar beside children in time to come, Ye the altar of the Lord our God. have no part in the LORD. 20 Did notAchan the son of Zerah 28 Therefore said we, that it commit a trespass in the accursed shall be, when they should so thing, and wrath fell on all the con- say to us or to our generations in gregation of Israel? and that man time to come, that we may say perished not alone in his iniquity. again, Behold the pattern of the
21 Then the children of Reuben altar of the LORD, which our and the children of Gad and the fathers made, not for burnt offerhalf tribe of Manasseh answered, ings, nor for sacrifices; but it is and said unto the heads of the a witness between us and you. thousands of Israel,
29 God forbid that we should 22 The LORD God of gods, the rebel against the Lord, and LORD God of gods, he knoweth, turn this day from following the and Israel he shall know; if it Lord, to build an altar for burnt
offerings, for meat offerings, or dren of Israel out of the hand of for sacrifices, beside the altar of the LORD. the Lord our God that is be- 32 And Phinehas the son of fore his tabernacle.
Eleazar the priest, and the 30 And when Phinehas the princes, returned from the chilpriest, and the princes of the con- dren of Reuben, and from the gregation and heads of the thou- children of Gad, out of the land sands of Israel which were with of Gilead, unto the land of Cahim, heard the words that the naan, to the children of Israel, children of Reuben and the chil- and brought them word again. dren of Gad and the children of 33 And the thing pleased the Manasseh spake, it pleased them. children of Israel; and the chil
31 And Phinehas the son of dren of Israel blessed God, and Eleazar the priest said unto the did not intend to go up against children of Reuben, and to the them in battle, to destroy the children of Gad, and to the chil- land wherein the children of dren of Manasseh, This day we Reuben and Gad dwelt. perceive that the Lord is among 34 And the children of Reuben us, because ye have not commit- and the children of Gad called the ed this trespass against the Lord: altar Ed: for it shall be a witness now ye have delivered the chil- between us that the Lord is God.
LECTURE 400. Of preventing misunderstanding by calm discussion. How gladly did the accusers here retract their accusation! And how well pleased were they to find that their suspicion was without foundation! When shall we learn to argue thus dispassionately, in matters which deeply interest our feelings? When shall we be thus well pleased to find ourselves in error, where our error has done injustice to our brethren? Far other is the common practice of those who differ in opinion, much more of those whose of duty prompts them to reprove a brother in what they take for sin, They approach the subject with unworthy fear. They had rather tell of the supposed offence to others, than faithfully inform the supposed offender. Or if they have once ventured to bring the charge before him, they are slow to receive the true explanation. They are apt to conceive their own character concerned, in maintaining the view which they have once taken of the case. It is pleasant and profitable to mark here the result of a better course of proceeding. It is good for us to note, how a charge of this nature, even when brought forward hastily, and urged vehemently, was met with meekness, answered with a satisfactory reason, and retracted with unaffected joy. Is it vain to expect, that by means like these the disputes which divide Christians might ever be appeased ? Is it altogether hopeless that a time may come, when the very points now so bitterly disputed, having been settled by calm discussion, in the spirit of Christian love, instead of being a scandal to unbelievers, and a grievance and a hindrance to ourselves, may be bonds of union, proofs of the force of truth, yea, may remain ever for “a witness between us that the Lord is God ?"
Joshua exhorteth the assembled rulers of Israel. 1 And it came to pass a long time man hath been able to stand beafter that the LORD had given fore you unto this day: rest unto Israel from all their
shall chase enemies round about, that Joshua a thousand: for the Lord your waxed old and stricken in age. God he it is that fighteth for
2 And Joshua called for all Is- you, as he hath promised you. rael, and for their elders, and for 11 Take good heed therefore their heads, and for their judges, unto yourselves, that ye love the and for their officers, and said unto LORD your God. them, I am old and stricken in age:
12 Else if
do in any wise go 3 And
have seen all that the back, and cleave unto the remLord your God hath done unto nant of these nations, even these all these nations because of you; that remain among you, and shall for the LORD your God is he make marriages with them, and that hath fought for you. go in unto them, and they to you:
4 Behold, I have divided unto 13 Know for a certainty that the you by lot these nations that re- LORD your God will no more main, to be an inheritance for drive out any of these nations your tribes, from Jordan, with all from before you; but they shall the nations that I have cut off, be snares and traps unto you, and even unto the great sea westward. scourges in your sides, and thorns
5 And the LORD your God, he in your eyes, until ye perish from shall expel them from before off this good land which the you, and drive them from out of Lord your God hath given you. your sight; and ye shall possess 14 And, behold, this day I am their land, as the LORD your going the way of all the earth : God hath promised unto you.
know in all your hearts 6 Be ye therefore very cou- and in all your souls, that not one rageous to keep and to do all that thing hath failed of all the good is written in the book of the law things which the LORD your God of Moses, that ye turn not aside spake concerning you; all are therefrom to the right hand or to come to pass unto you, and not the left;
one thing hath failed thereof. 7 That ye come not among
15 Therefore it shall come to these nations, these that remain pass, that as all good things are among you; neither make men- come upon you, which the Lord tion of the name of their gods, your God promised you ; so shall nor cause to swear by them, nei- the Lord bring upon you all ther serve them, nor bow your- evil things, until he have deselves unto them:
stroyed you from off this good 8 But cleave unto the Lord land which the LORD your God your God, as ye have done unto hath given you. this day.
16 When ye have transgressed 9 For the Lord hath driven out the covenant of the Lord your from before you great nations God, which he commanded you, and strong: but as for you, no and have gone and served other
gods, and bowed yourselves to you, and ye shall perish quickly them; then shall the anger of from off the good land which he the LORD be kindled against hath given unto you.
LECTURE 401. God moves us by present blessings, and by promises and threats.
The sense of mercy already received is the first point here insisted on by Joshua: “ Ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto all these nations because of you.” Next follow promises for the future, on condition of their persevering in allegiance to God: “One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, be it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God." Lastly the most solemn threatenings are repeated, in case they should in any wise go back : "then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.” These are motives, which ought all to weigh with us, to cleave unto the Lord our God with all our hearts. Have we seen, have we experienced, that the Lord is gracious? Have we been translated out of an evil world into the family of his dear children? Have we been made partakers of his grace? Have we tasted the powers of the world to come, see Heb. 6.5, finding ourselves enabled, by strength from heaven, to obey, and to rejoice in obeying? Then let this encourage us to persevere. He who hitherto has fought for us is on our side still. He will go on with the work which He has begun. Yes, for He bas promised that He will
. “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” this is his assurance, “for ye are not under the law but under grace.” Rom. 6. 14. And again, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” 1 Cor. 10. 13. And again, “ the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” Rom. 16. 20. And again," he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil.
Such are God's promises; so great, so gracious, so encouraging, so constraining ! But then how greatly do they add to the terror of his threatenings, in case of our falling short in our obedience, in case of our falling away from our faith!
6. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?” Heb. 2. 3. Surely as great blessings have come upon us already, surely as God for his part will fulll all that He offers to bestow on us hereafter, so surely will He bring upon them, that do in any wise go back, and cleave again to the sins they should forsake, all the evil things which He has threatened.
O God, let us stand in awe of thy judgments; and sin not. Let us depend upon thy promises, and obey. Let us bear in mind what great help Thou hast given us already, and be therefore "very courageous to keep and to do” all the things that are written in thy word, all the things that are known to be