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Expositions of Holy Scripture by Alexander Maclaren

Part 7 out of 12

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the same ball when a slit is cut in it, and it shrivels into a
shapeless lump. Weak people's obstinate fits end like that. He will
be as extreme in his eagerness to get rid of the Israelites as he
had been in his determination to keep them. The sail that is filled
one moment tumbles in a heap the next, when the halyards are cut. It
is a poor affair when a man's actions are shaped mainly by fear of
consequences. Fright always drives to extremes. 'When he shall let
you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether.' Many a
stout, God-opposing will collapses altogether when God's finger
touches it. 'Can thy heart endure in the days that I shall deal with

Verses 2 and 3 appear irrelevant here, but the command to collect
from the Egyptians jewels, which might be bartered for necessaries,
may well have been given to Moses simultaneously with the assurance
that he would lead forth the people after the next plague, and the
particulars of the people's favour and of Moses' influence in the
eyes of the native inhabitants, come in anticipatively to explain
why the request for such contributions was granted when made.

With the new divine command swelling in his heart, Moses speaks his
last word to Pharaoh, towering above him in righteous wrath, and
dwindling his empty threats into nothingness. What a contrast
between the impotent rage of the despot, with his vain threat, 'Thou
shalt die,' and the unblenching boldness of the man with God at his
back! One cannot but note in Moses' prediction of the last plague
the solemn enlargement on the details of the widespread calamity,
which is not unfeeling gloating over an oppressor's misery, but a
yearning to save from hideous misery by timely and plain depicting
of it. There is a flash of national triumph in the further contrast
between the universal wailing in Egypt and the untouched security of
the children of Israel, but that feeling merges at once into the
higher one of 'the Lord's' gracious action in establishing the
'difference' between them and their oppressors. It is not safe to
dwell on superiority over others, either as to condition or
character, unless we print in very large letters that it is 'the
Lord' who has made it. There is a flash, too, of natural triumph in
the picture of the proud courtiers brought down to prostrate
themselves before the shepherd from Horeb, and to pray him to do
what their master and they had so long fought against his doing. And
there is a most natural assertion of non-dependence on their leave
in that emphatic 'After that _I will_ go out.' He is not
asserting himself against God, but against the cowering courtiers.
'Hot anger' was excusable, but it was not the best mood in which to
leave Pharaoh. Better if he had gone out unmoved, or moved only to
'great heaviness and sorrow of heart' at the sight of men setting
themselves against God, and rushing on the 'thick bosses of the
Almighty's buckler' to their own ruin. Moses' anger we naturally
sympathise with, Christ's meekness we should try to copy.

The closing verses, as we have already noticed, are a kind of
summing-up of the whole narrative of the plagues and their effects
on Pharaoh. They open two difficult questions, as to how and why it
was that the effect of the successive strokes was so slight and
transient. They give the 'how' very emphatically as being that
'Jehovah hardened Pharaoh's heart.' Does that not free Pharaoh from
guilt? And does it not suggest an unworthy conception of God? It
must be remembered that the preceding narrative employs not only the
phrase that 'Jehovah hardened Pharaoh's heart,' but also the
expression that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. And it is further to
be noted that the latter expression is employed in the accounts of
the earlier plagues, and that the former one appears only towards
the close of the series. So then, even if we are to suppose that it
means that there was a direct hardening action by God on the man's
heart, such action was not first, but subsequent to obstinate
hardening by himself. God hardens no man's heart who has not first
hardened it himself. But we do not need to conclude that any inward
action on the will is meant. Was not the accumulation of plagues,
intended, as they were, to soften, a cause of hardening? Does not
the Gospel, if rejected, harden, making consciences and wills less
susceptible? Is it not a 'savour of death unto death,' as our
fathers recognised in speaking of 'gospel-hardened sinners'? The
same fire softens wax and hardens clay. Whosoever is not brought
near is driven farther off, by the influences which God brings to
bear on us.

The 'why' is stated in terms which may suggest difficulties,--'that
my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.' But we have to
remember that the Old Testament writers are not wont to distinguish
so sharply as more logical Westerns do between the actual result of
an event and its purpose. With their deep faith in the all-ruling
power of God, whatever had come to pass was what He had meant to
come to pass. In fact, Pharaoh's obstinacy had not thwarted the
divine purpose, but had been the dark background against which the
blaze of God's irresistible might had shone the brighter. He makes
the wrath of man to praise Him, and turns opposition into the
occasion of more conspicuously putting forth His omnipotence.


'And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land
of Egypt, saying, 2. This month shall be unto you the
beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the
year to you. 3. Speak ye unto all the congregation of
Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they
shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the
house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: 4. And if
the household be too little for the lamb, let him and
his neighbour next unto his house take it according to
the number of the souls; every man according to his
eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5. Your lamb
shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye
shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6. And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of
the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation
of Israel shall kill it in the evening. 7. And they shall
take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts
and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they
shall eat it. 8. And they shall eat the flesh in that
night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with
bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9. Eat not of it raw,
nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his
head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.
10. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the
morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning
ye shall burn with fire. 11. And thus shall ye eat it;
with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and
your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste:
it is the Lord's passover. 12. For I will pass through
the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the
firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and
against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment:
I am the Lord. 13. And the blood shall be to you for a
token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the
blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be
upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
14. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and
ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your
generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance
for ever.'--EXODUS xii. 1-14.

The Passover ritual, as appointed here, divides itself into two main
parts--the sprinkling of the sacrificial blood on the door-posts and
lintels, and the feast on the sacrifice. These can best be dealt
with separately. They were separated in the later form of the
ritual; for, when there was a central sanctuary, the lambs were
slain there, and the blood sprinkled, as in other expiatory
sacrifices, on the altar, while the domestic feast remained
unaltered. The former was more especially meant to preserve the
Israelites from the destruction of their first-born; the latter as a
permanent memorial of their deliverance. But both have perpetual
fitness as prophetic of varying aspects of the Christian redemption.

I. The ritual of the protecting blood.

In the hurry and agitation of that eventful day, it must have seemed
strange to the excited people that they should be called upon to
observe such a service. But its institution at that crisis is in
accordance with the whole tone of the story of the Exodus, in which
man is nothing and God all. Surely, never was national deliverance
effected so absolutely without effort or blow struck. If we try to
realise the state of mind of the Israelites on that night, we shall
feel how significant of the true nature of their deliverance this
summons to an act of worship, in the midst of their hurry, must have

The domestic character of the rite is its first marked feature. Of
course, there were neither temple nor priests then; but that does
not wholly account for the provision that every household, unless
too few in number to consume a whole lamb, should have its own
sacrifice, slain by its head. The first purpose of the rite, to
provide for the safety of each house by the sprinkled blood, partly
explains it; but the deepest reason is, no doubt, the witness which
was thereby borne to the universal priesthood of the nation. The
patriarchal order made each man the priest of his house. This rite,
which lay at the foundation of Israel's nationality, proclaimed that
a restricted priestly class was a later expedient. The primitive
formation crops out here, as witness that, even where hid beneath
later deposits, it underlies them all.

We have called the Passover a sacrifice. That has been disputed, but
unreasonably. No doubt, it was a peculiar kind of sacrifice, unlike
those of the later ritual in many respects, and scarcely capable of
being classified among them. But it is important to keep its
strictly sacrificial character in view; for it is essential to its
meaning and to its typical aspect. The proofs of its sacrificial
nature are abundant. The instructions as to the selection of the
lamb; the method of disposing of the blood, which was sprinkled with
hyssop--a peculiarly sacrificial usage; the treatment of the
remainder after the feast; the very feast itself,--all testify that
it was a sacrifice in the most accurate use of the word. The
designation of it as 'a passover to the Lord,' and in set terms as a
'sacrifice,' in verse 27 and elsewhere, to say nothing of its later
form when it became a regular Temple sacrifice, or of Paul's
distinct language in 1 Corinthians v. 7, or of Peter's quotation of
the very words of verse 5, applied to Christ, 'a lamb without
blemish,' all point in the same direction.

But if a sacrifice, what kind of sacrifice was it? Clearly, the
first purpose was that the blood might be sprinkled on the door-
posts and lintels, and so the house be safe when the destroying
angel passed through the land. Such is the explanation given in
verse 13, which is the divine declaration of its meaning. This is
the centre of the rite; from it the name was derived. Whether
readers accept the doctrines of substitution and expiation or not,
it ought to be impossible for an honest reader of these verses to
deny that these doctrines or thoughts are there. They may be only
the barbarous notions of a half-savage age and people. But, whatever
they are, there they are. The lamb without blemish carefully chosen
and kept for four days, till it had become as it were part of the
household, and then solemnly slain by the head of the family, was
their representative. When they sprinkled its blood on the posts,
they confessed that they stood in peril of the destroying angel by
reason of their impurity, and they presented the blood as their
expiation. In so far, their act was an act of confession,
deprecation, and faith. It accepted the divinely appointed means of
safety. The consequence was exemption from the fatal stroke, which
fell on all homes from the palace to the slaves' hovel, where that
red streak was not found. If any son of Abraham had despised the
provision for safety, he would have been partaker of the plague.

All this refers only to exemption from outward punishment, and we
are not obliged to attribute to these terrified bondmen any higher
thoughts. But clearly their obedience to the command implied a
measure of belief in the divine voice; and the command embodied,
though in application to a transient judgment, the broad principles
of sacrificial substitution, of expiation by blood, and of safety by
the individual application of that shed blood.

In other words, the Passover is a Gospel before the Gospel. We are
sometimes told that in its sacrificial ideas Christianity is still
dressing itself in 'Hebrew old clothes.' We believe, on the
contrary, that the whole sacrificial system of Judaism had for its
highest purpose to shadow forth the coming redemption. Christ is not
spoken of as 'our Passover,' because the Mosaic ritual had happened
to have that ceremonial; but the Mosaic ritual had that ceremonial
mainly because Christ is our Passover, and, by His blood shed on the
Cross and sprinkled on our consciences, does in spiritual reality
that which the Jewish Passover only did in outward form. All other
questions about the Old Testament, however interesting and hotly
contested, are of secondary importance compared with this. Is its
chief purpose to prophesy of Christ, His atoning death, His kingdom
and church, or is it not? The New Testament has no doubt of the
answer. The Evangelist John finds in the singular swiftness of our
Lord's death, which secured the exemption of His sacred body from
the violence inflicted on His fellow-sufferers, a fulfilment of the
paschal injunction that not a bone should be broken; and so, by one
passing allusion, shows that he recognised Christ as the true
Passover. John the Baptist's rapturous exclamation, 'Behold the Lamb
of God!' blends allusions to the Passover, the daily sacrifice, and
Isaiah's great prophecy. The day of the Crucifixion, regarded as
fixed by divine Providence, may be taken as God's own finger
pointing to the Lamb whom He has provided. Paul's language already
referred to attests the same truth. And even the last lofty visions
of the Apocalypse, where the old man in Patmos so touchingly recurs
to the earliest words which brought him to Jesus, echo the same
conviction, and disclose, amidst the glories of the throne, 'a Lamb
as it had been slain.'

II. The festal meal on the sacrifice.

After the sprinkling of the blood came the feast. Only when the
house was secure from the destruction which walked in the darkness
of that fateful night, could a delivered household gather round the
board. That which had become their safety now became their food.
Other sacrifices were, at a later period, modelled on the same type;
and in all cases the symbolism is the same, namely, joyful
participation in the sacrifice, and communion with God based upon
expiation. In the Passover, this second stage received for future
ages the further meaning of a memorial. But on that first night it
was only such by anticipation, seeing that it preceded the
deliverance which it was afterwards to commemorate.

The manner of preparing the feast and the manner of partaking of it
are both significant. The former provided that the lamb should be
roasted, not boiled, apparently in order to secure its being kept
whole; and the same purpose suggested the other prescriptions that
it was to be served up entire, and with bones unbroken. The reason
for this seems to be that thus the unity of the partakers was more
plainly shown. All ate of one undivided whole, and were thus, in a
real sense, one. So the Apostle deduces the unity of the Church from
the oneness of the bread of which they in the Christian Passover

It was to be eaten with the accompaniments of bitter herbs, usually
explained as memorials of the bondage, which had made the lives
bitter, and the remembrance of which would sweeten their
deliverance, even as the pungent condiments brought out the savour
of the food. The further accompaniment of unleavened bread seems to
have the same signification as the appointment that they were to eat
with their garments gathered round their loins, their feet shod, and
staves in hand. All these were partly necessities in their urgent
hurry, and partly a dramatic representation for later days of the
very scene of the first Passover. A strange feast indeed, held while
the beat of the pinions of the destroying angel could almost be
heard, devoured in hot haste by anxious men standing ready for a
perilous journey, the end whereof none knew! The gladness would be
strangely dashed with terror and foreboding. Truly, though they
feasted on a sacrifice, they had bitter herbs with it, and,
standing, swallowed their portions, expecting every moment to be
summoned to the march.

The Passover as a feast is a prophecy of the great Sacrifice, by
virtue of whose sprinkled blood we all may be sheltered from the
sweep of the divine judgment, and on which we all have to feed if
there is to be any life in us. Our propitiation is our food. 'Christ
for us' must become 'Christ in us,' received and appropriated by our
faith as the strength of our lives. The Christian life is meant to
be a joyful feast on the Sacrifice, and communion with God based
upon it. We feast on Christ when the mind feeds on Him as truth,
when the heart is filled and satisfied with His love, when the
conscience clings to Him as its peace, when the will esteems the
'words of His mouth more than' its 'necessary food,' when all
desires, hopes, and inward powers draw their supplies from Him, and
find their object in His sweet sufficiency.

Nor will the accompaniments of the first Passover be wanting. Here
we feast in the night; the dawn will bring freedom and escape. Here
we eat the glad Bread of God, not unseasoned with bitter herbs of
sorrow and memories of the bondage, whose chains are dropping from
our uplifted hands. Here we should partake of that hidden
nourishment, in such manner that it hinders not our readiness for
outward service. It is not yet time to sit at His table, but to
stand with loins girt, and feet shod, and hands grasping the pilgrim
staff. Here we are to eat for strength, and to blend with our secret
hours of meditation the holy activities of the pilgrim life.

That feast was, further, appointed with a view to its future use as
a memorial. It was held before the deliverance which it commemorated
had been accomplished. A new era was to be reckoned from it. The
month of the Exodus was thenceforward to be the first of the year.
The memorial purpose of the rite has been accomplished. All over the
world it is still observed, so many hundred years after its
institution, being thus, probably, the oldest religious ceremonial
in existence. Once more aliens in many lands, the Jewish race still,
year by year, celebrate that deliverance, so tragically unlike their
homeless present, and with indomitable hope, at each successive
celebration, repeat the expectation, so long cherished in vain,
'This year, here; next year, in the land of Israel. This year,
slaves; next year, freemen.' There can be few stronger attestations
of historical events than the keeping of days commemorating them, if
traced back to the event they commemorate. So this Passover, like
Guy Fawkes' Day in England, or Thanksgiving Day in America, remains
for a witness even now.

What an incomprehensible stretch of authority Christ put forth, if
He were no more than a teacher, when He brushed aside the Passover,
and put in its place the Lord's Supper, as commemorating His own
death! Thereby He said, 'Forget that past deliverance; instead,
remember Me.' Surely this was either audacity approaching insanity,
or divine consciousness that He Himself was the true Paschal Lamb,
whose blood shields the world from judgment, and on whom the world
may feast and be satisfied. Christ's deliberate intention to
represent His death as expiation, and to fix the reverential,
grateful gaze of all future ages on His Cross, cannot be eliminated
from His founding of that memorial rite in substitution for the God-
appointed ceremonial, so hoary with age and sacred in its
significance. Like the Passover, the Lord's Supper was established
before the deliverance was accomplished. It remains a witness at
once of the historical fact of the death of Jesus, and of the
meaning and power which Jesus Himself bade us to see in that death.
For us, redeemed by His blood, the past should be filled with His
sacrifice. For us, fed on Himself, all the present should be
communion with Him, based upon His death for us. For us, freed
bondmen, the memorial of deliverance begun by His Cross should be
the prophecy of deliverance to be completed at the side of His
throne, and the hasty meal, eaten with bitter herbs, the adumbration
of the feast when all the pilgrims shall sit with Him at His table
in His kingdom. Past, present, and future should all be to us
saturated with Jesus Christ. Memory should furnish hope with
colours, canvas, and subjects for her fair pictures, and both be
fixed on 'Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us.'


'It shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and
for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord's law
may be in thy mouth.'--EXODUS xiii. 9.

The question may be asked, whether this command is to be taken
metaphorically or literally. No doubt the remembrance of the great
deliverance was intrusted to acts. Besides the annual Passover
feasts, inscriptions on the door-posts and fringes on the dress were
appointed for this purpose. And the Jews from a very early period,
certainly before our Lord's time, wore phylacteries fastened, as
this and other places prescribe, on the left arm and on the
forehead, and alleged these words as the commandment which they
therein obeyed. But it seems more probable that the meaning is
metaphorical, and that what is enjoined is rather a constant
remembrance of the great deliverance, and a constant regulation of
the practical life by it. For what is it that is to be 'a sign'? It
is the Passover feast. And the 'therefore' of the next verse seems
to say that keeping this ordinance in its season is the fulfilment
of this precept. Besides, the expression 'for a sign,' 'for a
memorial,' may just as well mean 'it shall serve as,' or 'it shall
be like,' as 'you shall wear.' So I think we must say that this is a
figure, not a fact; the enjoining of an object for thought and a
motive for life, not of a formal observance. And it is very
characteristic of the Jew, and of the universal tendency to harden
and lower religion into outward rites, that a command so wide and
profound was supposed to be kept by fastening little boxes with four
slips of parchment containing extracts from the Pentateuch on arm
and forehead. Jewish rabbis are not the only people who treat God's
law like that. Even if literal, the injunction is for the purpose of
remembering. Taking that meaning, then, the text sets forth
principles that apply quite as much to us. You will observe 'hand,'
'eyes,' 'mouth'; the symbols of practice, knowledge, expression;
work, thought, and word. Observe also that there is a slight change
in construction in the three clauses; the two former are to be done
in order that the latter may come to pass. Then the memorial of the
great deliverance is to be 'on the hand' and 'before the eyes,' in
order that 'the Lord's law' may be 'in the mouth.' Keeping these
points in view--

I. God's great deliverance should be constantly before our thoughts.
It is more than an accident that both Judaism and Christianity
should begin with a great act of deliverance; that that act of
deliverance should constitute a community, and that a memorial rite
should be the centre of the ritual of both. The Lord's Supper
historically took the place of the Passover. It was instituted at
the Passover and instead of it. It is precisely the same in design,
a memorial feast appointed to keep up the vivid remembrance of the
historical fact to which redemption is traced; and not only to keep
up its remembrance, but to proclaim the importance of extending that
remembrance through all life.

Notice the peculiarity of both the Jewish and the Christian rite,
that the centre point of both is a historical fact, a redeeming act.
Judaism and Christianity are the only religions in regard to which
this is true to anything like the same extent or in the same way.
Christianity as a revelation is not so much the utterance in words
of great religious thoughts as the history of a life and a death, a
fact wrought upon the earth, which is at once the means of
revelation and the means of redemption. This is a feature unshared
by other religions.

This characteristic determines the principal object of our religious
thought. The true object for religious thought is Christ, and His
life and death.

All religious truth flows from and is wrapped up in that:
_e.g._ theology, or the nature of God; anthropology, or the
nature of man; soteriology, morality, etc. All truth for the
individual and for the race has its source in God's great redeeming
act. Religious emotion is best fed at this source, _e.g._
thankfulness, wonder, love: all these transcendent feelings which
are melted together in adoration. Here is where they are kindled.
You cannot pump them up, or bring them into existence by willing, or
scourge yourself into them, any more than you can make a seed grow
by pulling at the germ with a pair of pincers, but this gives the
warmth and moisture which make it germinate.

The clear perception of this truth is valuable, as correcting false
tendencies in religion, _e.g._ the tendency to be much occupied
with the derived truths, and to think of them almost to the
exclusion of the great fact from which they come; the tendency to
substitute melancholy self-inspection for objective facts; the
tendency to run out into mere feeling.

The command requires of us a habitual occupation of mind with the
great deliverance.

And the habitual presence of this thought will be best secured by
specific times of occupation with it. Let every Christian practise
the habit of meditation, which in an age of so many books,
newspapers, and the distractions of our busy modern life, is apt to
become obsolete.

II. The great deliverance is to be ever present in practical life.

The 'hand' is clearly the seat and home of power and practical
effort. So the remembrance is to be present and to preside over our
practical work.

How it is fitted to do so.

_(a)_ It gives the law for all our activity.

The pattern. The death as well as the life of Christ teaches us what
we ought to be.

The motive. He died for me! Shall I not serve Him who redeemed me?

_(b)_ That remembered deliverance arms us against temptations,
and lifts us above sinking into sin.

How blessed such a life would be! How victorious over the small
motives that rule one's life, the deadening influence of routine,
the duties that are felt to be overwhelmingly great and those that
are felt to be wearisomely and monotonously small! How this unity of
motive would give unity to life and simplify its problems! How it
would free us from many a perplexity! There are so many things that
seem doubtful because we do not bring the test of the highest motive
to bear on them. Complications would fall away when we only wished
to know and be like Christ. Many a tempting amusement, or
occupation, or speculation would start up in its own shape when this
Ithuriel spear touched it. How it would save from distractions! How
strong it would make us, like a belt round the waist bracing the
muscles tighter! 'This one thing I do' is always a strengthening

How far is this possible? Not absolutely, but we may approximate
very closely and indefinitely towards it. For there is the
possibility of such thought blending with common motives, like a
finer perfume in the scentless air, or some richer elixir in a cup.
There is the possibility of its doing to other motives what light
does to landscape when a sudden sunbeam gleams across the plain, and
everything leaps into increased depth of colour. Let us try more and
more to rescue life from the slavery of habit and the distractions
of all these smaller forces, and to bring it into the greatness and
power of submission to the dominion of this sovereign, unifying
motive. Our lives would thus be greatened and strengthened, even as
Germany and Italy have been, by being delivered from a rabble of
petty dukes and brought under the sway of one emperor or king. Let
us try to approach nearer and nearer to the fusion of action and
contemplation, and to the blending with all other motives of this
supreme one.

This command supplies us with an easily applied and effective test.
Is there any place where you cannot take it, any act which you feel
it would be impossible to do for His sake? Avoid such. Where the
safety-lamp burns blue and goes out, is no place for you.

It is a beautiful thought that Jesus does for us what we are thus
commanded to do for Him. The high priest bore the names of the
tribes on his shoulders and in his heart. 'I have graven thee on the
palms of my hands.' We bear Him in our hands and in our hearts. 'I
bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.'

III. The great deliverance is to be ever on our lips.

The three regions here named are the inward thought, the outward
practice, and the testimony of the lips. Note that that testimony is
a consequence of thought and practice.

1. The purpose of the deliverance is to make 'prophets of His law.'
Such was the divine intention as to Israel. Such is God's purpose as
to all Christians. The very meaning of redemption is there. He has
'opened our lips' that we 'should show forth His praise.' He has
regard to 'His own name.' He desires to make us vocal, for the same
purpose for which a man strings a harp, to bring sweet music out of
it. Words of testimony are a form of love.

2. The other two are incomplete without this vocal testimony.

3. The utterance of the lips, to be worth anything, must rest on and
follow the other two. How noble, then, and blessed, how strong and
calm and simple our lives would be, if we had this for the one great
object of our thoughts, of our practical endeavour, of our words, if
all our being was sustained, impelled, made vocal, by one thought,
one love!

O my brother, see to it that you give yourself to Him. That great
Light will gladden your eyes, will guide your activity, and, like
the sunrise striking Memnon's voiceless, stony lips, will bring
music. Thought will have one boundless home of 'many mansions.' Work
will have one law, one motive, its consecration and strength; and as
in some solemn procession, all our steps and all our movements will
keep time to the music of our praise to 'Him who loved us.'


'And the angel of God, which went before the camp of
Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of
the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind
them: 20. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians
and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness
to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that
the one came not near the other all the night. 21. And
Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord
caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that
night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were
divided. 22. And the children of Israel went into the
midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters
were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their
left. 23. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after
them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses,
his chariots, and his horsemen. 24. And it came to pass,
that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host
of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the
cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, 25. And
took off their chariot-wheels, that they drave them
heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from
the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them
against the Egyptians. 26. And the Lord said unto Moses,
Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may
come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and
upon their horsemen. 27. And Moses stretched forth his
hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength
when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against
it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of
the sea. 28. And the waters returned, and covered the
chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh
that came into the sea after them; there remained not
so much as one of them. 29. But the children of Israel
walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the
waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and
on their left. 30. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day
out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the
Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore. 31. And Israel saw
that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians:
and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord,
and His servant Moses.'--EXODUS xiv. 19-31.

This passage begins at the point where the fierce charge of the
Egyptian chariots and cavalry on the straggling masses of the
fugitives is inexplicably arrested. The weary day's march, which
must have seemed as suicidal to the Israelites as it did to their
pursuers, had ended in bringing them into a position where, as
Luther puts it, they were like a mouse in a trap or a partridge in a
snare. The desert, the sea, the enemy, were their alternatives. And,
as they camped, they saw in the distance the rapid advance of the
dreaded force of chariots, probably the vanguard of an army. No
wonder that they lost heart. Moses alone keeps his head and his
faith. He is rewarded with the fuller promise of deliverance, and
receives the power accompanying the command, to stretch forth his
hand, and part the sea. Then begins the marvellous series of
incidents here recorded.

I. The first step in the leisurely march of the divine deliverance
is the provision for checking the Egyptian advance and securing the
safe breaking up of the Israelitish camp. The pursuers had been
coming whirling along at full speed, and would soon have been
amongst the disorderly mass, dealing destruction. There was no
possibility of getting the crossing effected unless they were held
at bay. When an army has to ford a river in the face of hostile
forces, the hazardous operation is possible only if a strong
rearguard is left on the enemy's side, to cover the passage. This is
exactly what is done here. The pillar of fire and cloud, the symbol
of the divine presence, passed from the van to the rear. Its
guidance was not needed, when but one path through the sea was
possible. Its defence was needed when the foe was pressing eagerly
on the heels of the host. His people's needs determined then, as
they ever do, the form of the divine presence and help. Long after,
the prophet seized the great lesson of this event, when he broke
into the triumphant anticipation of a yet future deliverance,--which
should repeat in fresh experience the ancient victory, 'The Lord
will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rearward,' In
the place where the need is sorest, and in the form most required,
there and that will God ever be to those who trust Him.

We can see here, too, a frequent characteristic of the miraculous
element in Scripture, namely, its reaching its end not by a leap,
but by a process. Once admit miracle, and it appears as if
adaptation of means to ends was unnecessary. It would have been as
easy to have transported the Israelites bodily and instantaneously
to the other side of the sea, as to have taken these precautions and
then cleft the ocean, and made them march through it. Legendary
miracle would have preferred the former way. The Bible miracle
usually adapts methods to aims, and is content to travel to its goal
step by step.

Nor can we omit to notice the double effect of the one manifestation
of the divine presence. The same pillar was light and darkness. The
side which was cloud was turned to the pursuers; that which was
light, to Israel. The former were paralysed, and hindered from
advancing a step, or from seeing what the latter were doing; these,
on the other hand, had light thrown on their strange path, and were
encouraged and helped to plunge into the mysterious road, by the
ruddy gleam which disclosed it. So every revelation is either light
or darkness to men, according to the use they make of it. The ark,
which slew Philistines, and flung Dagon prone on his own threshold,
brought blessing to the house of Obededom. The Child who was to be
'set for the fall,' was also for 'the rising of many.' The stone
laid in Zion is 'a sure foundation,' and 'a stone of stumbling.' The
Gospel is the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. The
same fire melts wax and hardens clay. The same Christ is salvation
and destruction. God is to each of us either our joy or our dread.

II. The sudden march of the Egyptians having thus been arrested,
there is leisure, behind the shelter of the fiery barrier, to take
the next step in the deliverance. The sea is not divided in a
moment. Again, we have a process to note, and that brought about by
two things,--Moses' outstretched rod, and the strong wind which blew
all night. The chronology of that fateful night is difficult to
adjust from our narrative. It would appear, from verse 20, that the
Egyptians were barred advancing until morning; and, from verse 21,
that the wind which ploughed with its strong ploughshare a furrow
through the sea, took all night for its work. But, on the other
hand, the Israelites must have been well across, and the Egyptians
in the very midst of the passage, 'in the morning watch,' and all
was over soon after 'the morning appeared.' Probably the wind
continued all the night, so as to keep up the pressure which dammed
back the waters, but the path was passable some hours before the
gale abated. It must have been a broad way to admit of some two
million frightened people with wives and children effecting a
crossing in the short hours of part of one night.

But though God used the wind as His besom to sweep a road clear for
His people, the effect produced by ordinary means was extraordinary.
No wind that ever blew would blow water in two opposite directions
at once, as a man might shovel snow to right and left, and heap it
in mounds by the sides of the path that he dug. That was what the
text tells us was done. The miracle is none the less a miracle
because God employed physical agents, just as Christ's miracles were
no less miraculous when He anointed blind eyes with moistened clay,
or sent men to wash in Siloam, than when His bare word raised the
dead or stilled the ocean. Wind or no wind, Moses' rod or no rod,
the true explanation of that broad path cleared through the sea is--'the
waters saw Thee, O God.' The use of natural means may have been
an aid to feeble faith, encouraging it to step down on to the
untrodden and slippery road. The employment of Moses and his rod was
to attest his commission to act as God's mouthpiece.

III. Then comes the safe passage. It is hard to imagine the scene.
The vivid impression made by our story is all the more remarkable
when we notice how wanting in detail it is. We do not know the time
nor the place. We have no information about how the fugitives got
across, the breadth of the path, or its length. Characteristically
enough, Jewish legends know all about both, and assure us that the
waters were parted into twelve ways, one for each tribe, and that
the length of the road was three hundred miles! But Scripture, with
characteristic reticence, is silent about all but the fact. That is
enough. We gather, from the much later and poetical picture of it in
Psalm lxxvii., that the passage was accomplished in the midst of
crashing thunder and flashing lightnings; though it may be doubted
whether these are meant to be taken as real or ideal. At all events,
we have to think of these two millions of people--women, children,
and followers--plunging into the depths in the night.

What a scene! The awestruck crowds, the howling wind, perhaps the
thunderstorm, the glow of the pillar glistening on the wet and slimy
way, the full paschal moon shining on the heaped waters! How the awe
and the hope must both have increased with each step deeper in the
abyss, and nearer to safety! The Epistle to the Hebrews takes this
as an instance of 'faith' on the part of the Israelites; and truly
we can feel that it must have taken some trust in God's protecting
hand to venture on such a road, where, at any moment, the walls
might collapse and drown them all. They were driven to venture by
their fear of Pharaoh; but faith, as well as fear, wrought in them.
Our faith, too, is often called upon to venture upon perilous paths.
We may trust Him to hold back the watery walls from falling. The
picture of the crossing carries eternal truth for us all. The way of
safety does not open till we are hemmed in, and Pharaoh's chariots
are almost come up. It often leads into the very thick of what we
deem perils. It often has to be ventured on in the dark, and with
the wind in our faces. But if we tread it in faith, the fluid will
be made solid, and the pathless passable, or any other apparent
impossibility be realised, before our confidence shall be put to
shame, or one real evil reach us.

IV. The next stage is the hot pursuit and the panic of the
Egyptians. The narrative does not mark the point at which the pillar
lifted and disclosed the escape of the prey. It must have been in
the night. The baffled pursuers dash after them, either not seeing,
or too excited and furious to heed where they were going. The rough
sea bottom was no place for chariots, and they would be hopelessly
distanced by the fugitives on foot. How long they stumbled and
weltered we are not told, but 'in the morning watch,' that is, while
it was yet dark, some awful movement in the fiery pillar awed even
their anger into stillness, and drove home the conviction that they
were fighting against God. There is something very terrible in the
vagueness, if we may call it so, of that phrase 'the Lord looked ...
through the pillar.' It curdles the blood as no minuteness of
narrative would do. And what a thought that His look should be a
trouble! 'The steady whole of the judge's face' is awful, and some
creeping terror laid hold on that host of mad pursuers floundering
in the dark, as that more than natural light flared on their path.
The panic to which all bodies of soldiers in strange circumstances
are exposed, was increased by the growing difficulty of advance, as
the chariot wheels became clogged or the ground more of quicksand.
At last it culminates in a shout of '_Sauve qui peut!_' We may
learn how close together lie daring rebellion against God and abject
terror of Him; and how in a moment, a glance of His face, a turn of
His hand, bring the wildest blasphemer to cower in fear. We may
learn, too, to keep clear of courses which cannot be followed a
moment longer, if once a thought that God sees us comes in. And we
may learn the miserable result of all departure from Him, in making
what ought to be our peace and blessing, our misery and terror, and
turning the brightness of His face into a consuming fire.

V. Then comes, at last, the awful act of destruction, of which a man
is the agent and an army the victim. We must suppose the Israelites
all safe on the Arabian coast, when the level sunlight streams from
the east on the wild hurry of the fleeing crowd making for the
Egyptian shore. What a solemn sight that young morning looked on!
The wind had dropped, the rod is stretched out, the sea returns to
its strength; and after a few moments' despairing struggle all is
over, and the sun, as it climbs, looks down upon the unbroken
stretch of quiet sea, bearing no trace of the awful work which it
had done, or of the quenched hatred and fury which slept beneath.

We can understand the stern joy which throbs so vehemently in every
pulse of that great song, the first blossom of Hebrew poetry, which
the ransomed people sang that day. We can sympathise with the many
echoes in psalm and prophecy, which repeated the lessons of faith
and gratitude. But some will be ready to ask, Was that triumphant
song anything more than narrow national feeling, and has
Christianity not taught us another and tenderer thought of God than
that which this lesson carries? We may ask in return, Was it divine
providence that swept the Spanish Armada from the sea, fulfilling,
as the medal struck to commemorate it bore, the very words of Moses'
song, 'Thou didst blow with Thy wind, the sea covered them'? Was it
God who overwhelmed Napoleon's army in the Russian snows? Were
these, and many like acts in the world's history, causes for
thankfulness to God? Is it not true that, as has been well said,
'The history of the world is the judgment of the world'? And does
Christianity forbid us to rejoice when some mighty and ancient
system of wrong and oppression, with its tools and accomplices, is
cleared from off the face of the earth? 'When the wicked perish,
there is shouting.' Let us not forget that the love and gentleness
of the Gospel are accompanied by the revelation of divine judgment
and righteous retribution. This very incident has for its last echo
in Scripture that wonderful scene in the Apocalypse, where, in the
pause before the seven angels bearing the seven plagues go forth,
the seer beholds a company of choristers, like those who on that
morning stood on the Red Sea shore, standing on the bank of the 'sea
of glass mingled with fire,'--which symbolises the clear and
crystalline depth of the stable divine judgments, shot with fiery
retribution,--and lifting up by anticipation a song of thanksgiving
for the judgments about to be wrought. That song is expressly called
'the song of Moses' and 'of the Lamb,' in token of the essential
unity of the two dispensations, and especially of the harmony of
both in their view of the divine judgments. Its ringing praises are
modelled on the ancient lyric. It, too, triumphs in God's judgments,
regards them as means of making known His name, as done not for
destruction, but that His character may be known and honoured by
men, to whom it is life and peace to know and love Him for what He

That final victory over 'the beast,' whether he be a person or a
tendency, is to reproduce in higher fashion that old conquest by the
Red Sea. There is hope for the world that its oppressors shall not
always tyrannise; there is hope for each soul that, if we take
Christ for our deliverer and our guide, He will break the chains
from off our wrists, and bring us at last to the eternal shore,
where we may stand, like the ransomed people, and, as the unsetting
morning dawns, see its beams touching with golden light the calm
ocean, beneath which our oppressors lie buried for ever, and lift up
glad thanksgivings to Him who has 'led us through fire and through
water, and brought us out into a wealthy place.'


'The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my
EXODUS xv. 2.

These words occur three times in the Bible: here, in Isaiah xii. 2,
and in Psalm cxviii. 14.

I. The lessons from the various instances of their occurrence. The
first and second teach that the Mosaic deliverance is a picture-
prophecy of the redemption in Christ. The third (Psalm cxviii. 14),
long after, and the utterance of some private person, teaches that
each age and each soul has the same mighty Hand working for it. 'As
we have heard, so have we seen.'

II. The lessons from the words themselves.

_(a)_ True faith appropriates God's universal mercy as a
personal possession. '_My_ Lord and _my_ God!' 'He loved
_me_, and gave Himself for _me_.'

_(b)_ Each single act of mercy should reveal God more clearly
as 'My strength.' The 'and' in the second clause is substantially
equivalent to 'for.' It assigns the reason for the assurance
expressed in the first. Because of the experienced deliverance and
God's manifestation of Himself in it as the author of 'salvation,'
my faith wins happy increase of confidence that He 'is the strength
of my heart.' Blessed they who bring that treasure out of all the
sorrows of life!

_(c)_ The end of His deliverances is 'praise.' 'He is my song.'
This is true for earth and for heaven. The 'Song of Moses and the


'... Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy
holy habitation.'

What a grand triumphal ode! The picture of Moses and the children of
Israel singing, and Miriam and the women answering: a gush of
national pride and of worship! We belong to a better time, but still
we can feel its grandeur. The deliverance has made the singer look
forward to the end, and his confidence in the issue is confirmed.

I. The guiding God: or the picture of the leading. The original is
'lead gently.' _Cf._ Isaiah xl. 11, Psalm xxiii. 2. The emblem
of a flock underlies the word. There is not only guidance, but
gentle guidance. The guidance was gentle, though accompanied with so
tremendous and heart-curdling a judgment. The drowned Egyptians were
strange examples of gentle leading. But God's redemptive acts are
like the guiding pillar of fire, in that they have a side that
reveals wrath and evokes terror, and a side that radiates lambent
love and kindles happy trust.

'In Thy strength.' _Cf._ Isaiah xl. 10, 'with strong hand.' 'He
shall gently lead.' Note the combination with gentleness. That
divine strength is the only power which is able to guide. We are so
weak that it takes all His might to hold us up. It is His strength,
not ours. 'My strength is made perfect in (thy) weakness.'

'To the resting-place of Thy holiness.' The word is used for
pasture, or resting-places for cattle. Here it meant Canaan; for us
it means Heaven--'the green pastures' of real participation in His

II. The triumphant confidence as to the future based upon the
deliverance of the past. _'Hast,'_ a past tense. It is as good
as done. The believing use of God's great past, and initial mercy,
to make us sure of His future.

_(a)_ In that He will certainly accomplish it.

_(b)_ In that even now there is a foretaste--rest in toil. He
guides to the 'waters of resting.' A rest now (Heb. iv. 3); a rest
'that remaineth' (Heb. iv. 3, 9).

III. The warning against confidence in self. These people who sang
thus perished in the wilderness! They let go hold of God's hand, so
they 'sank like lead.' So He will fulfil begun work (Philippians i.
6). Let us cleave to Him. In Hebrews iii. and iv. lessons are drawn
from the Israelites not 'entering in.' See also Psalm xcv.


'Thou shalt bring them in and plant them in the mountain
of Thine inheritance....'--EXODUS xv. 17.

I. The lesson taught by each present deliverance and kindness is
that we shall be brought to His rest at last.

_(a)_ Daily mercies are a pledge and a pattern of His
continuous acts. The confidence that we shall be kept is based upon
no hard doctrine of final perseverance, but on the assurance that
God is always the same, like the sunshine which has poured out for
all these millenniums and still rushes on with the same force.

The inexhaustibleness of the divine resources.

The steadfastness of the divine purposes.

The long-suffering of the divine patience.

_(b)_ Thus daily mercies should lead on our thoughts to
heavenly things. They should not prison us in their own sweetness.
We should see the great Future shining through them as a
transparent, not an opaque medium.

_(c)_ That ultimate future should be the great object of our
hope. Surely it is chiefly in order that we may have the light of
that great to-morrow brightening and magnifying our dusty to-days,
that we are endowed with the faculty of looking forward and 'calling
things that are not as though they were.' So we should engage and
enlarge our minds with it.

II. The form which that ultimate future assumes.

The Israelites thought of Canaan, and in particular of 'Zion,' its

_(a)_ Perpetual rest. 'Bring in and plant'--a contrast to the
desert nomad life.

_(b)_ Perpetual safety. 'The sanctuary which Thy hands have
established,' _i.e._ made firm.

_(c)_ Perpetual dwelling in God. 'Thy dwelling,' 'Thy
mountain,' '_Thy_ holy habitation' (ver. 13), rather than
'_our_ land.' For Israel their communion with Jehovah was
perfected on Zion by the Temple and the sacrifices, including the
revelation of (priestly) national service.

_(d)_ Perpetual purity. 'Thy sanctuary.' 'Without' holiness 'no
man shall see the Lord.'


'And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of
the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore
the name of it was called Marah. 24. And the people
murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
25. And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord showed him
a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the
waters were made sweet....'--EXODUS xv. 23-25.

I. The time of reaching Marah--just after the Red Sea. The
Israelites were encamped for a few days on the shore to shake
themselves together, and then at this, their very first station,
they began to experience the privations which were to be their lot
for forty years. Their course was like that of a ship that is in the
stormy Channel as soon as it leaves the shelter of the pier at
Dover, not like that of one that glides down the Thames for miles.

After great moments and high triumphs in life comes Marah.

Marah was just before Elim--the alternation, how blessed! The shade
of palms and cool water of the wells, one for each tribe and one for
each 'elder.' So we have alternations in life and experience.

II. The wrong and the right ways of taking the bitter experience.
The people grumbled: Moses cried to the Lord. The quick
forgetfulness of deliverances. The true use of speech is not
complaint, but prayer.

III. The power that changes bitter to sweet. The manner of the
miracle is singular. God hides Himself behind Moses, and His
miraculous power behind the material agent. Perhaps the manner of
the miracle was intended to suggest a parallel with the first
plague. There the rod made the Nile water undrinkable. There is a
characteristic economy in the miraculous, and outward things are
used, as Christ used the pool and the saliva and the touch, to help
the weak faith of the deaf and dumb man.

What changes bitter to sweet for us?--the Cross, the remembrance of
Christ's death. 'Consider Him that endured.' The Cross is the true
tree which, when 'cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet.'

Recognition of and yielding to God's will: that is the one thing
which for us changes all. The one secret of peace and of getting
sweetness out of bitterness is loving acceptance of the will of God.

Discernment of purpose in God's 'bitter' dealings--'for our profit.'
The dry rod 'budded.' The Prophet's roll was first bitter, then
sweet. Affliction 'afterwards yieldeth the peaceable fruit.'


'Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain
bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out
and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove
them, whether they will walk in My law, or no. 5. And
it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall
prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice
as much as they gather daily. 6. And Moses and Aaron said
unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall
know that the Lord hath brought you out from the land of
Egypt: 7. And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory
of the Lord; for that He heareth your murmurings against
the Lord: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?
8. And Moses said, This shall be, when the Lord shall give
you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread
to the full; for that the Lord heareth your murmurings
which ye murmur against Him: and what are we? your murmurings
are not against us, but against the Lord, 9. And Moses
spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the
children of Israel, Come near before the Lord: for He
hath heard your murmurings. 10. And it came to pass, as
Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children
of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and,
behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.
11. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 12. I have
heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak
unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in
the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall
know that I am the Lord your God.'--EXODUS xvi. 4-12.

Unbelief has a short memory. The Red Sea is forgotten in a month.
The Israelites could strike their timbrels and sing their lyric of
praise, but they could not believe that to-day's hunger could be
satisfied. Discontent has a slippery memory. They wish to get back
to the flesh-pots, of which the savour is in their nostrils, and
they have forgotten the bitter sauce of affliction. When they were
in Egypt, they shrieked about their oppression, and were ready to
give up anything for liberty; when they have got it, they are ready
to put their necks in the yoke again, if only they can have their
stomachs filled. Men do not know how happy they are till they cease
to be so. Our present miseries and our past blessings are the themes
on which unbelief harps. Let him that is without similar sin cast
the first stone at these grumbling Israelites. Without following
closely the text of the narrative, we may throw together the lessons
of the manna.

I. Observe God's purpose in the gift, as distinctly expressed in the
promise of it.

'That I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law or no.' How
did the manna become a test of this? By means of the law prescribed
for gathering it. There was to be a given quantity daily, and twice
as much on the sixth day. If a man trusted God for to-morrow, he
would be content to stop collecting when he had filled his omer,
tempting as the easily gathered abundance would be. Greed and
unbelief would masquerade then as now, under the guise of prudent
foresight. The old Egyptian parallels to 'make hay while the sun
shines,' and suchlike wise sayings of the philosophy of distrust,
would be solemnly spoken, and listened to as pearls of wisdom. When
experience had taught that, however much a man gathered, he had no
more than his omer full, after all,--and is not that true yet?--then
the next temptation would be to practise economy, and have something
over for to-morrow. Only he who absolutely trusted God to provide
for him would eat up his portion, and lie down at night with a quiet
heart, knowing that He who had fed him would feed. When experience
had taught that what was saved rotted, then laziness would come in
and say, 'What is the use of gathering twice as much on the sixth
day? Don't we know that it will not keep?' So the whole of the gift
was a continual training of, and therefore a continual test for,
faith. God willed to let His gifts come in this hand-to-mouth
fashion, though He could have provided at once what would have
obviously lasted them all their wilderness life, in order that they
might be habituated to cling to Him, and that their daily bread
might be doubly for their nourishment, feeding their bodies and
strengthening that faith which, to them as to us, is the condition
of all blessedness. God lets our blessings, too, trickle to us drop
by drop, instead of pouring them in a flood all at once upon us, for
the same reason. He does so, not because of any good to Him from our
faith, except that the Infinite love loves infinitely to be loved;
but for our sakes, that we may taste the peace and strength of
continual dependence, and the joy of continual receiving. He could
give us the principal down; but He prefers to pay us the interest,
as we need it.

Christianity does not absolutely forbid laying up money or other
resources for future wants. But the love of accumulating, which is
so strong in many professing Christians, and the habit of amassing
beyond all reasonable future wants, is surely scarcely permitted to
those who profess to believe that incarnate wisdom forbade taking
anxious care for the morrow, and sent its disciples to lilies and
birds to learn the happy immunities of faith. We too get our daily
mercies to prove us. The letter of the law for the manna is not
applicable to us who gain our bread by God's blessing on our labour.
But the spirit is, and the members of great commercial nations have
surely little need to be reminded that still the portion put away is
apt to breed worms. How often it vanishes, or, if it lasts, tortures
its owner, who has more trouble keeping it than he had in getting
it; or fatally corrupts his own character, or ruins his children!
All God's gifts are tests, which--thanks be to Him--is the same as
to say that they are means of increasing faith, and so adding to

II. The manna was further a disclosure of the depth of patient long-
suffering in God.

Very strikingly the 'murmurings' of the children of Israel are four
times referred to in this context, and on each occasion are stated
as the reason for the gift of the manna. It was God's answer to the
peevish complaints of greedy appetites. When they were summoned to
come near to the Lord, with the ominous warning that 'He hath heard
your murmurings,' no doubt many a heart began to quake; and when the
Glory flashed from the Shechinah cloud, it would burn lurid to their
trembling consciences. But the message which comes from it is sweet
in its gentleness, as it promises the manna because they have
murmured, and in order that they may know the Lord. A mother soothes
her crying infant by feeding it from her own bosom. God does not
take the rod to His whimpering children, but rather tries to win
them by patience, and to shame their unbelief by His swift and over-
abundant answers to their complaints. When He must, He punishes; but
when He can, He complies. Faith is the condition of our receiving
His highest gifts; but even unbelief touches His heart with pity,
and what He can give to it, He does, if it may be melted into trust.
The farther men stray from Him, the more tender and penetrating His
recalling voice. We multiply transgressions, He multiplies mercies.

III. The manna was a revelation in miraculous and transient form of
an eternal truth.

The God who sent it sends daily bread. The words which Christ quoted
in His wilderness hunger are the explanation of its meaning as a
witness to this truth: 'Man doth not live by bread alone, but by
every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' To a Christian,
the divine power is present and operative in all natural processes
as really as in those which we call miraculous. God is separable
from the universe, but the universe is not separable from God. If it
were separated, it would cease. So far as the reality of the divine
operation is concerned, it matters not whether He works in the
established fashion, through material things, or whether His will
acts directly. The chain which binds a phenomenon to the divine will
may be long or short; the intervening links may be many, or they may
be abolished, and the divine cause and the visible effect may touch
without anything between. But in either case the power is of God.
Bread made out of flour grown on the other side of the world, and
fashioned by the baker, and bought by the fruits of my industry, is
as truly the gift of God as was the manna. For once, He showed these
men His hand at work, that we all might know that it was at work,
when hidden. The lesson of the 'angel's food' eaten in the
wilderness is that men are fed by the power of God's expressed and
active will,--for that is the meaning of 'the word that proceedeth
out of the mouth of God,'--in whatever fashion they get their food.
The gift of it is from Him; its power to nourish is from Him. It is
as true to-day as ever it was: 'Thou openest Thine hand, and
satisfiest the desire of every living thing.' The manna ceased when
the people came near cornfields and settled homes. Miracles end when
means are possible. But the God of the miracle is the God of the

Commentators make much of what is supposed to be a natural
substratum for the manna, in a certain vegetable product, found in
small quantities in parts of the Arabian peninsula. No doubt, we are
to recognise in the plagues of Egypt, and in the dividing of the Red
Sea, the extraordinary action of ordinary causes; and there is no
objection in principle to doing so here. But that an exudation from
the bark of a shrub, which has no nutritive properties at all, is
found only in one or two places in Arabia, and that only at certain
seasons and in infinitesimal quantity, seems a singularly thin
'substratum' on which to build up the feeding of two millions of
people, more or less exclusively and continuously for forty years,
by means of a substance which has nothing to do with tamarisk-trees,
and is like the natural product in nothing but sweetness and name.
Whether we admit connection between the two, or not, the miraculous
character of the manna of the Israelites is unaffected. It was
miraculous in its origin--'rained from heaven,' in its quantity, in
its observance of times and seasons, in its putrefaction and
preservation,--as rotting when kept for greed, and remaining sweet
when preserved for the Sabbath. It came straight from the creative
will of God, and whether its name means 'What is it?' or 'It is a
gift,' the designation is equally true and appropriate, pointing, in
the one case, to the mystery of its nature; in the other, to the
love of the Giver, and in both referring it directly to the hand of

IV. The manna was typical of Christ.

Our Lord Himself has laid His hand upon it, and claimed it as a
faint foreshadowing of what He is. The Jews, not satisfied with the
miracle of the loaves, demand from Him a greater sign, as the
condition of what they are pleased to call 'belief'--which is
nothing but accepting the testimony of sense. They quote Moses as
giving the manna, and imply that Messiah is expected to repeat the
miracle. Christ accepts the challenge, and goes on to claim that He
not only gives, but Himself is, for all men's souls, all and more
than all which the manna had been to the bodies of that dead
generation. Like it, He came--but in how much more profound a
sense!--from heaven. Like it, He was food. But unlike it, He could
still for ever the craving of the else famishing soul; unlike it, He
not only nourished a bodily life already possessed, but communicated
a spiritual life which never dies; and, unlike it, He was meant to
be the food of the whole world. His teaching passed beyond the
symbolism of the manna, when He not only declared Himself to be the
'true bread from heaven which gives life to the world,' but opened a
glimpse into the solemn mystery of His atoning death by the
startling and apparently repulsive paradox that 'His flesh was food
indeed and His blood drink indeed.' The manna does not typically
teach Christ's atonement, but it does set Him forth as the true
sustenance and life-giver, sweet as honey to the soul, sent from
heaven for us each, but needing to be made ours by the act of our
faith. An Israelite would have starved, though the manna lay all
round the camp, if he did not go forth and secure his portion; and
he might no less have starved, if he did not eat what Heaven had
sent. 'Crede et manducasti,' 'Believe, and thou hast eaten,'--as St.
Augustine says. The personal appropriating act of faith is essential
to our having Christ for the food of our souls. The bread that
nourishes our bodies is assimilated to their substance, and so
becomes sustenance. This bread of God, entering into our souls by
faith, transforms them into its substance, and so gives and feeds an
immortal life. The manna was for a generation; this bread is 'the
same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.' That was for a handful of
men; this is for the world. Nor is the prophetic value of the manna
exhausted when we recognise its witness to Christ. The food of the
wilderness is the food of the city. The bread that is laid on the
table, 'spread in the presence of the enemy,' is the bread that
makes the feast in the king's palace. The Christ who feeds the
pilgrim soldiers is the Christ on whom the conquerors banquet. 'To
him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna.'


'And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it
Jehovah Nissi [that is, the Lord is my Banner].'
--EXODUS xvii. 15.

We are all familiar with that picturesque incident of the conflict
between Israel and Amalek, which ended in victory and the erection
of this memorial trophy. Moses, as you remember, went up on the
mount whilst Joshua and the men of war fought in the plain. But I
question whether we usually attach the right meaning to the
symbolism of this event. We ordinarily, I suppose, think of Moses as
interceding on the mountain with God. But there is no word about
prayer in the story, and the attitude of Moses is contrary to the
idea that his occupation was intercession. He sat there, with the
rod of God in his hand, and the rod of God was the symbol and the
vehicle of divine power. When he lifted the rod Amalek fled before
Israel; when the rod dropped Israel fled before Amalek. That is to
say, the uplifted hand was not the hand of intercession, but the
hand which communicated power and victory. And so, when the conflict
is over, Moses builds this memorial of thanksgiving to God, and
piles together these great stones--which, perhaps, still stand in
some of the unexplored valleys of that weird desert land--to teach
Israel the laws of conflict and the conditions of victory. These
laws and conditions are implied in the name which he gave to the
altar that he built--Jehovah Nissi, 'the Lord is my Banner.'

Now, then, what do these stones, with their significant name, teach
us, as they taught the ancient Israelites? Let me throw these
lessons into three brief exhortations.

I. First, realise for whose cause you fight.

The Banner was the symbol of the cause for which an army fought, or
the cognizance of the king or commander whom it followed. So Moses,
by that name given to the altar, would impress upon the minds of the
cowardly mob that he had brought out of Egypt--and who now had
looked into an enemy's eyes for the first time--the elevating and
bracing thought that they were God's soldiers, and that the warfare
which they waged was not for themselves, nor for the conquest of the
country for their own sake, nor for mere outward liberty, but that
they were fighting that the will of God might prevail, and that He
might be the King now of one land--a mere corner of the earth--and
thereby might come to be King of all the earth. That rude altar said
to Israel: 'Remember, when you go into the battle, that the battle
is the Lord's; and that the standard under which you war is the God
for whose cause you contend--none else and none less than Jehovah
Himself. You are consecrated soldiers, set apart to fight for God.'

Such is the destination of all Christians. They have a battle to
fight, of which they do not think loftily enough, unless they
clearly and constantly recognise that they are fighting on God's

I need not dwell upon the particulars of this conflict, or run into
details of the way in which it is to be waged. Only let us remember
that the first field upon which we have to fight for God we carry
about within ourselves; and that there will be no victories for us
over other enemies until we have, first of all, subdued the foes
that are within. And then let us remember that the absorbing
importance of inward conflict absolves no Christian man from the
duty of strenuously contending for all things that are 'lovely and
of good report,' and from waging war against every form of sorrow
and sin which his influence can touch. There is no surer way of
securing victory in the warfare within and conquering self than to
throw myself into the service of others, and lose myself in their
sorrows and needs. There is no possibility of my taking my share in
the merciful warfare against sin and sorrow, the tyrants that
oppress my fellows, unless I conquer myself. These two fields of the
Christian warfare are not two in the sense of being separable from
one another, but they are two in the sense of being the inside and
the outside of the same fabric. The warfare is one, though the
fields are two.

Let us remember, on the other hand, that whilst it is our simple
bounden duty, as Christian men and women, to reckon ourselves as
anointed and called for the purpose of warring against sin and
sorrow, wherever we can assail them, there is nothing more
dangerous, and few things more common, than the hasty identification
of fighting for some whim, or prejudice, or narrow view, or partial
conception of our own, with contending for the establishment of the
will of God. How many wicked things have been done in this world for
God's glory! How many obstinate men, who were really only forcing
their own opinions down people's throats because they were theirs,
have fancied themselves to be pure-minded warriors for God! How easy
it has been, in all generations, to make the sign of the Cross over
what had none of the spirit of the Cross in it; and to say, 'The
cause is God's, and therefore I war for it'; when the reality was,
'The cause is mine, and therefore I take it for granted that it is

Let us beware of the 'wolf in sheep's clothing,' the pretence of
sanctity which is only selfishness with a mask on. And, above all,
let us beware of the uncharitableness and narrowness of view, the
vehemence of temper, the fighting for our own hands, the enforcing
of our own notions and whims and peculiarities, which have often
done duty as being true Christian service for the Master's sake. We
are God's host, but we are not to suppose that every notion that we
take into our heads, and for which we may contend, is part of the
cause of God.

And then remember what sort of men the soldiers in such an army
ought to be. 'Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.' These
bearers may either be regarded as a solemn procession of priests
carrying the sacrificial vessels; or, as is more probable from the
context of the original, as the armour-bearers of the great King.
They must be pure who bear His weapons, for these are His righteous
love, His loving purity. If our camp is the camp of the Lord, no
violence should be there. What sanctity, what purity, what patience,
what long-suffering, what self-denial, and what enthusiastic
confidence of victory there should be in those who can say, 'We are
the Lord's host, Jehovah is our Banner!' He always wins who sides
with God. And he only worthily takes his place in the ranks of the
sacramental host of the Most High who goes into the warfare knowing
that, because He is God's soldier, he will come out of it, bringing
his victorious shield with him, and ready for the laurels to be
twined round his undinted helmet. That is the first of the thoughts,
then, that are here.

II. The second of the exhortations which come from the altar and its
name is, Remember whose commands you follow.

The banner in ancient warfare, even more than in modern, moved in
front of the host, and determined the movements of the army. And so,
by the stones that he piled and the name which he gave them, Moses
taught Israel and us that they and we are under the command of God,
and that it is the movements of His staff that are to be followed.
Absolute obedience is the first duty of the Christian soldier, and
absolute obedience means the entire suppression of my own will, the
holding of it in equilibrium until He puts His finger on the side
that He desires to dip and lets the other rise. They only understand
their place as Christ's servants and soldiers who have learned to
hush their own will until they know their Captain's. In order to be
blessed, to be strong, to be victorious, the indispensable condition
is that our inmost desire shall be, 'Not my will, but Thine be

Sometimes, and often, there will be perplexities in our daily lives,
and conflicts very hard to unravel. We shall often be brought to a
point where we cannot see which way the Banner is leading us. What
then? 'It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait' for
the salvation and for the guidance of his God. And we shall
generally find that it is when we are looking too far ahead that we
do not get guidance. You will not get guidance to-day for this day
next week. When this day next week comes, it will bring its own
enlightenment with it.

'Lead, kindly Light, ...
... One step enough for me.'

Let us take short views both of duty and of hope, and we shall not
so often have to complain that we are left without knowing what the
Commander's orders are. Sometimes we are so left, and that is a
lesson in patience, and is generally God's way of telling us that it
is not His will that we should do anything at all just yet.
Sometimes we are so left in order that we may put our hand out
through the darkness, and hold on by Him, and say, 'I know not what
to do, but mine eyes are towards Thee.'

And be sure of this, brethren, that He will not desert His own
promise, and that they who in their inmost hearts can say, 'The Lord
is my Banner,' will never have to complain that He led them into a
'pathless wilderness where there was no way.' It is sometimes a very
narrow track, it is often a very rough one, it is sometimes a
dreadfully solitary one; but He always goes before us, and they who
hold His hand will not hold it in vain. 'The Lord is my Banner';
obey His orders and do not take anybody else's; nor, above all, the
suggestions of that impatient, talkative heart of yours, instead of
His commandments.

III. Lastly, the third lesson that these grey stones preach to us
is, Recognise by whose power you conquer.

The banner, I suppose, to us English people, suggests a false idea.
It suggests the notion of a flag, or some bit of flexible drapery
which fluttered and flapped in the wind; but the banner of old-world
armies was a rigid pole, with some solid ornament of bright metal on
the top, so as to catch the light. The banner-staff spoken of in the
text links itself with the preceding incident. I said that Moses
stood on the mountain-top with the rod in his hand. Now that rod was
exactly a miniature banner, and when he lifted it, victory came to
Israel; and when it fell, victory deserted their arms. So by the
altar's name he would say, Do not suppose that it was Moses that won
the battle, nor that it was the rod that Moses carried in his hand
that brought you strength. The true Victor was Jehovah, and it was
He who was Moses' Banner. It was by Him that the lifted rod brought
victory; as for Moses, he had nothing to do with it; and the people
had to look higher than the hill-top where he sat.

This thought puts stress on the first word of the phrase instead of
on the last, as in my previous remarks. 'The Lord is my Banner,'--no
Moses, no outward symbol, no man or thing, but only He Himself.
Therefore, in all our duties, and in all our difficulties, and in
all our conflicts, and for all our conquests, we are to look away
from creatures, self, externals, and to look only to God. We are all
too apt to trust in rods instead of in Him, in Moses instead of in
Moses' Lord.

We are all too apt to trust in externals, in organisations,
sacraments, services, committees, outside aids of all sorts, as our
means for doing God's work, and bringing power to us and blessing to
the world. Let us get away from them all, dig deeper down than any
of these, be sure that these are but surface reservoirs, but that
the fountain which fills them with any refreshing liquid which they
may bear lies in God Himself. Why should we trouble ourselves about
reservoirs when we can go to the Fountain? Why should we put such
reliance on churches and services and preaching and sermons and
schemes and institutions and organisations when we have the divine
Lord Himself for our strength? 'Jehovah is my Banner,' and Moses'
rod is only a symbol. At most it is like a lightning-conductor, but
it is not the lightning. The lightning will come without the rod, if
our eyes are to the heaven, for the true power that brings God down
to men is that forsaking of externals and waiting upon Him which He
never refuses to answer.

In like manner we are too apt to put far too much confidence in
human teachers and human helpers of various kinds. And when God
takes them away we say to ourselves that there is a gap that can
never be filled. Ay! but the great sea can come in and fill any gap,
and make the deepest and the driest of the excavations in the desert
to abound in sweet water.

So let us turn away from everything external, gather in our souls
and fix our hopes on Him; let us recognise the imperative duty of
the Christian warfare which is laid upon us; let us docilely submit
ourselves to His sweet commands, and trust in His sufficient and
punctual guidance, and not expect from any outward sources that
which no outward sources can ever give, but which He Himself will
give--strength to our fingers to fight, and weapons for the warfare,
and covering for our heads in the day of battle.

And then, when our lives are done, may the only inscription on the
stone that covers us be 'Jehovah Nissi: the Lord is my banner'! The
trophy that commemorates the Christian's victory should bear no name
but His by whose grace we are more than conquerors. 'Thanks be to
God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.'


'The name of the one [of Moses' sons] was Gershom ... and
the name of the other was Eliezer....'--EXODUS xviii. 3, 4.

In old times parents often used to give expression to their hopes or
their emotions in the names of their children. Very clearly that was
the case in Moses' naming of his two sons, who seem to have been the
whole of his family. The significance of each name is appended to it
in the text. The explanation of the first is, 'For he said, I have
been an alien in a strange land'; and that of the second, 'For the
God of my fathers, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the
sword of Pharaoh.' These two names give us a pathetic glimpse of the
feelings with which Moses began his exile, and of the better
thoughts into which these gradually cleared. The first child's name
expresses his father's discontent, and suggests the bitter contrast
between Sinai and Egypt; the court and the sheepfold; the gloomy,
verdureless, gaunt peaks of Sinai, blazing in the fierce sunshine,
and the cool, luscious vegetation of Goshen, the land for cattle.
The exile felt himself all out of joint with his surroundings, and
so he called the little child that came to him 'Gershom,' which,
according to one explanation, means 'banishment,' and, according to
another (a kind of punning etymology), means 'a stranger here'; in
the other case expressing the same sense of homelessness and want of
harmony with his surroundings. But as the years went on, Moses began
to acclimatise himself, and to become more reconciled to his
position and to see things more as they really were. So, when the
second child is born, all his murmuring has been hushed, and he
looks beyond circumstances, and lays his hand upon God. 'And the
name of the second was Eliezer, for, he said, the God of my fathers
was my help.'

Now, there are the two main streams of thought that filled these
forty years; and it was worth while to put Moses into the desert for
all that time, and to break off the purposes and hopes of his life
sharp and short, and to condemn him to comparative idleness, or work
that was all unfitted to bring out his special powers, for that huge
scantling out of his life, one-third of the whole of it, in order
that there might be burnt into him, not either of these two thoughts
separately, but the two of them in their blessed conjunction; 'I am
a stranger here'; 'God is my Help.' And so these are the thoughts
which, in like juxtaposition, ought to be ours; and in higher
fashion with regard to the former of them than was experienced by
Moses. Let me say a word or two about each of these two things. Let
us think of the strangers, and of the divine helper that is with the

I. 'A stranger here.'

Now, that is true, in the deepest sense, about all men; for the one
thing that makes the difference between the man and the beast is
that the beast is perfectly at home in his surroundings, and gets
all that he needs out of them, and finds in them a field for all
that he can do, and is fully developed to the very highest point of
his capacity by what people nowadays call the 'environment' in which
he is put. But the very opposite is the case in regard to us men.
'Foxes have holes,' and they are quite comfortable there; 'and the
birds of the air have roosting-places,' and tuck their heads under
their wings and go to sleep without a care and without a
consciousness. 'But the Son of man,' the ideal Humanity as well as
the realised ideal in the person of Jesus Christ, 'hath not where to
lay His head.' No; because He is so 'much better than they.' Their
immunity from care is not a prerogative--it is an inferiority. We
are plunged into the midst of a scene of things which obviously does
not match our capacities. There is a great deal more in every man
than can ever find a field of expression, of work, or of
satisfaction in anything beneath the stars. And no man that
understands, even superficially, his own character, his own
requirements, can fail to feel in his sane and quiet moments, when
the rush of temptation and the illusions of this fleeting life have
lost their grip upon him: 'This is not the place that can bring out
all that is in me, or that can yield me all that I desire.' Our
capacities transcend the present, and the experiences of the present
are all unintelligible, unless the true end of every human life is
not here at all, but in another region, for which these experiences
are fitting us.

But, then, the temptations of life, the strong appeals of flesh and
sense, the duties which in their proper place are lofty and
elevating and refining, and put out of their place, are contemptible
and degrading, all come in to make it hard for any of us to keep
clearly before us what our consciousness tells us when it is
strongly appealed to, that we are strangers and sojourners here and
that this is not 'our rest, because it is polluted.' Therefore it
comes to be the great glory and blessedness of the Christian
Revelation that it obviously shifts the centre for us, and makes
that future, and not this present, the aim for which, and in the
pursuit of which, we are to live. So, Christian people, in a far
higher sense than Moses, who only felt himself 'a stranger there,'
because he did not like Midian as well as Egypt, have to say, 'We
are strangers here'; and the very aim, in one aspect, of our
Christian discipline of ourselves is that we shall keep vivid, in
the face of all the temptations to forget it, this consciousness of
being away from our true home.

One means of doing that is to think rather oftener than the most of
us do, about our true home. You have heard, I dare say, of half-
reclaimed gipsies, who for a while have been coaxed out of the free
life of the woods and the moors, and have gone into settled homes.
After a while there has come over them a rush of feeling, a
remembrance of how blessed it used to be out in the open and away
from the squalor and filth where men 'sit and hear each other groan'
and they have flung off 'as if they were fetters' the trappings of
'civilisation,' and gone back to liberty. That is what we ought to
do--not going back from the higher to the lower, but smitten with
what the Germans call the _heimweh_, the home-sickness, that
makes us feel that we must get clearer sight of that land to which
we truly belong.

Do you think about it, do you feel that where Jesus Christ is, is
your home? I have no doubt that most of you have, or have had, dear
ones here on earth about whom you could say that, 'Where my husband,
my wife is; where my beloved is, or my children are, that is my
home, wherever my abode may be.' Are you, Christian people, saying
the same thing about heaven and Jesus Christ? Do you feel that you
are strangers here, not only because you, reflecting upon your
character and capacities and on human life, see that all these
require another life for their explanation and development, but
because your hearts are knit to Him, and 'where your treasure is
there your heart is also'; and where your heart is there you are? We
go home when we come into communion with Jesus Christ. Do you ever,
in the course of the rush of your daily work, think about the calm
city beyond the sea, and about its King, and that you belong to it?
'Our citizenship is in heaven' and here we are strangers.

II. Now let me say a word about the other child's name.

'God is Helper.' We do not know what interval of time elapsed
between the birth of these two children. There are some indications
that the second of them was in years very much the junior. Perhaps
the transition from the mood represented in the one name to that
represented in the other, was a long and slow process. But be that
as it may, note the connection between these two names. You can
never say 'We are strangers here' without feeling a little prick of
pain, unless you say too 'God is my Helper.' There is a beautiful
variation of the former word which will occur to many of you, I have
no doubt, in one of the old psalms: 'I am a stranger _with
Thee_, and a sojourner, as were all my fathers.' There is the
secret that takes away all the mourning, all the possible discomfort
and pain, out of the thought: 'Here we have no continuing city,' and
makes it all blessed. It does not matter whether we are in a foreign
land or no, if we have that Companion with us. His presence will
make blessedness in Midian, or in Thebes. It does not matter whether
it is Goshen or the wilderness, if the Lord is by our side. So
sweetness is breathed into the thought, and bitterness is sucked out
of it, when the name of the second child is braided into the name of
the first; and we can contemplate quietly all else of tragic and
limiting and sad that is involved in the thought that we are
sojourners and pilgrims, when we say 'Yes! we are; but the Lord is
my Helper.'

Then, on the other hand, we shall never say and feel 'the Lord is my
Helper,' as we ought to do, until we have got deep in our hearts,
and settled in our consciousness, the other conviction that we are
strangers here. It is only when we realise that there is no other
permanence for us that we put out our hands and grasp at the
Eternal, in order not to be swept away upon the dark waves of the
rushing stream of Time. It is only when all other props are stricken
from us that we rest our whole weight upon that one strong central
pillar, which can never be moved. Learn that God helps, for that
makes it possible to say 'I am a stranger,' and not to weep. Learn
that you are strangers, for that stimulates to take God for out
help. Just as when the floods are out, men are driven to the highest
ground to save their lives; so when the billows of the waters of
time are seen to be rolling over all creatural things, we take our
flight to the Rock of Ages. Put the two together, and they fit one
another and strengthen us.

This second conviction was the illuminating light upon a perplexed
and problematic past. Moses, when he fled from Egypt, thought that
his life's work was rent in twain. He had believed that his brethren
would have seen that it was God's purpose to use him as the
deliverer. For the sake of being such, he had surrendered the court
and its delights. But on his young ambition and innocent enthusiasm
there came this _douche_ of cold water, which lasted for forty
years, and sent him away into the wilderness, to be a shepherd under
an Arab sheikh, with nothing to look forward to. At first he said,
'This is not what I was meant for; I am out of my element here.' But
before the forty years were over he said, 'The God of my father was
my help, and He delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.' What had
looked a disaster turned out to be a deliverance, a manifestation of
divine help, and not a hindrance. He had got far enough away from
that past to look at it sanely, that is to say gratefully. So we,
when we get far enough away from our sorrows, can look back at them,
sometimes even here on earth, and say, 'The mercy of the Lord
compassed me about.' Here is the key that unlocks all the
perplexities of providence, 'The Lord was my Helper.'

And that conviction will steady and uphold a man in a present,
however dark. It was no small exercise of his faith and patience
that the great lawgiver should for so many years have such unworthy
work to do as he had in Midian. But even then he gathered into his
heart this confidence, and brought summer about him into the mid-
winter of his life, and light into the midst of darkness; 'for he
said'--even then, when there was no work for him to do that seemed
much to need a divine help--'the Lord is my Helper.'

And so, however dark may be our present moment, and however obscure
or repulsive our own tasks, let us fall back upon that old word,
'Thou hast been my Help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of
my salvation.'

When Moses named his boy, his gratitude was allied with faith in
favours to come; and when he said 'was,' he meant also 'will be.'
And he was right. He dreamt very little of what was coming, but this
confidence that was expressed in his second child's name was
warranted by that great future that lay before him, though he did
not know it. When the pinch came his confidence faltered. It was
easy to say 'The Lord is my Helper,' when there was nothing very
special for which God's help was needed, and nothing harder to do
than to look after a few sheep in the wilderness. But when God said
to him, 'Go and stand before Pharaoh,' Moses for the moment forgot
all about God's being his helper, and was full of all manner of
cowardly excuses, which, like the excuses of a great many more of us
for not doing our plain duty, took the shape of a very engaging
modesty and diffidence as to his capacities. But God said to him,
'Surely I will be with thee.' He gave him back 'Eliezer' in a little
different form. 'You used to say that I was your helper. What has
become of your faith now? Has it all evaporated when the trial
comes? Surely I will be with thee.' If we will set ourselves to our
tasks, not doubting God's help, we shall have occasion in the event
to be sure that God did help us.

So, brethren, let us cherish these two thoughts, and never keep them
apart, and God will be, as our good old hymn has it--

'Our help while troubles last,
And our eternal home.'

[Footnote: Preached on occasion of Mr. Gladstone's death.]

'Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men,
such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness;
and place such over them.'--EXODUS xviii. 21.

You will have anticipated my purpose in selecting this text. I
should be doing violence to your feelings and mine if I made no
reference to the event which has united the Empire and the world in
one sentiment. The great tree has fallen, and the crash has for the
moment silenced all the sounds of the forest. Wars abroad and
controversies at home are hushed. All men, of all schools of
opinion, creeds, and parties, see now, in the calm face of the dead,
'the likeness to the great of old'; and it says something, with all
our faults, for the soundness of the heart of English opinion, that
all sorts and conditions of men have brought their sad wreaths to
lay them on that coffin.

But, whilst much has been said, far more eloquently and
authoritatively than I can say it, about the many aspects of that
many-sided life, surely it becomes us, as Christian people, to look
at it from the distinctively Christian point of view, and to gather
some of the lessons which, so regarded, it teaches us.

My text is part of the sagacious advice which Jethro, the father-in-
law of Moses, gave him about the sort of men that he should pick out
to be his lieutenants in civic government. Its old-fashioned, simple
phraseology may hide from some of us the elevation and
comprehensiveness of the ideal that it sets forth. But it is a grand
ideal; and amongst the great names of Englishmen who have guided the
destinies of this land, none have approached more nearly to it than
he whose death has taken away the most striking personality from our
public life.

So let me ask you to look with me, first, at the ideal of a
politician that is set forth here.

The free life of the desert, far away from the oppressions of
surrounding military despotisms, that remarkable and antique
constitution of the clan, with all its beautiful loyalty, had given
this Arab sheikh a far loftier conception of what a ruler of men was
than he could have found exemplified at Pharaoh's court; or than,
alas! has been common in many so-called Christian countries. The
field upon which he intended that these great qualities should be
exercised was a very limited one, to manage the little affairs of a
handful of fugitives in the desert. But the scale on which we work
has nothing to do with the principles by which we work, and the laws
of perspective and colouring are the same, whether you paint the
minutest miniature or a gigantic fresco. So what was needed for
managing the little concerns of Moses' wanderers in the wilderness
is the ideal of what is needed for the men who direct the public
affairs of world-wide empires.

Let me run over the details. They must be 'able men,' or, as the
original has it, 'men of strength.' There is the intellectual basis,
and especially the basis of firm, brave, strongly-set will which
will grasp convictions, and, whatever comes, will follow them to
their conclusions. The statesman is not one that puts his ear down
to the ground to hear the tramp of some advancing host, and then
makes up his mind to follow in their paths; he is not sensitive to
the varying winds of public opinion, nor does he trim his sails to
suit them, but he comes to his convictions by first-hand approach
to, and meditation on, the great principles that are to guide, and
then holds to them with a strength that nothing can weaken, and a
courage that nothing can daunt. 'Men of strength' is what
democracies like ours do most need in their leaders; a 'strong man,
in a blatant land,' who knows his own mind, and is faithful to it
for ever. That is a great demand.

'Such as fear God'--there is the secret of strength, not merely in
reference to the intellectual powers which are not dependent for
their origin, though they may be for the health and vigour of their
work, upon any religious sentiment, but in regard to all true power.
He that would govern others must first be lord of himself, and he
only is lord of himself who is consciously and habitually the
servant of God. So that whatever natural endowment we start with, it
must be heightened, purified, deepened, enlarged, by the presence in
our lives of a deep and vital religious conviction. That is true
about all men, leaders and led, large and small. That is the bottom-
heat in the greenhouse, as it were, that will make riper and sweeter
all the fruits which are the natural result of natural capacities.
That is the amulet and the charm which will keep a man from the
temptations incident to his position and the weaknesses incident to
his character. The fear of God underlies the noblest lives. That is
not to-day's theory. We are familiar with the fact, and familiar
with the doctrine formulated out of it, that there may be men of
strong and noble lives and great leaders in many a department of
human activity without any reference to the Unseen. Yes, there may
be, but they are all fragments, and the complete man comes only when
the fear of the Lord is guide, leader, impulse, polestar, regulator,
corrector, and inspirer of all that he is and all that he does.

'Men of truth'--that, of course, glances at the crooked ways which
belong not only to Eastern statesmanship, but it does more than
that. He that is to lead men must himself be led by an eager haste
to follow after, and to apprehend, the very truth of things. And
there must be in him clear transparent willingness to render his
utmost allegiance, at any sacrifice, to the dawning convictions that
may grow upon him. It is only fools that do not change. Freshness of
enthusiasm, and fidelity to new convictions opening upon a man, to
the end of his life, are not the least important of the requirements
in him who would persuade and guide individuals or a nation.

'Hating covetousness'; or, as it might be rendered, 'unjust gain.'
That reference to the 'oiling of the palms' of Eastern judges may be
taken in a loftier signification. If a man is to stand forth as the
leader of a people, he must be clear, as old Samuel said that he
was, from all suspicion of having been following out his career for
any form of personal advantage. 'Clean hands,' and that not only
from the vulgar filth of wealth, but from the more subtle advantages
which may accrue from a lofty position, are demanded of the leader
of men.

Such is the ideal. The requirements are stern and high, and they
exclude the vermin that infest 'politics,' as they are called, and
cause them to stink in many nostrils. The self-seeking schemer, the
one-eyed partisan, the cynic who disbelieves in ideals of any sort,
the charlatan who assumes virtues that he does not possess, and
mouths noble sentiments that go no deeper than his teeth, are all
shut out by them. The doctrine that a man may do in his public
capacity things which would be disgraceful in private life, and yet
retain his personal honour untarnished, is blown to atoms by this
ideal. It is much to be regretted, and in some senses to be
censured, that so many of our wisest, best, and most influential men
stand apart from public life. Much of that is due to personal bias,
much more of it is due to the pressure of more congenial duties, and
not a little of it is due to the disregard of Jethro's ideal, and to
the degradation of public life which has ensued thereby. But there
have been great men in our history whose lives have helped to lift
up the ideal of a statesman, who have made such a sketch as Jethro
outlined, though they may not have used his words, their polestar;
and amongst the highest of these has been the man whose loss we to-
day lament.

Let me try to vindicate that expression of opinion in a word or two.
I cannot hope to vie in literary grace, or in completeness, with the
eulogies that have been abundantly poured out; and I should not have
thought it right to divert this hour of worship from its ordinary
themes, if I had had no more to say than has been far better said a
thousand times in these last days. But I cannot help noticing that,
though there has been a consensus of admiration of, and a
practically unanimous pointing to, character as after all the secret
of the spell which Mr. Gladstone has exercised for two generations,
there has not been, as it seems to me, equal and due prominence
given to what was, and what he himself would have said was, the real
root of his character and the productive cause of his achievements.

And so I venture now to say a word or two about the religion of the
man that to his own consciousness underlay all the rest of him. It
is not for me to speak, and there is no need to speak, about the
marvellous natural endowments and the equally marvellous, many-sided
equipment of attainment which enriched the rich, natural soil.
Intermeddling as he did with all knowledge, he must necessarily have
been but an amateur in many of the subjects into which he rushed
with such generous eagerness. But none the less is the example of
all but omnivorous acquisitiveness of everything that was to be
known, a protest, very needful in these days, against the possible
evils of an excessive specialising which the very progress of
knowledge in all departments seems to make inevitable. I do not need
to speak, either, of the flow, and sometimes the torrent, of
eloquence ever at his command, nor of the lithe and sinewy force of
his extraordinarily nimble, as well as massive, mind; nor need I say
more than one word about the remarkable combination of qualities so
generally held and seen to be incompatible, which put into one
personality a genius for dry arithmetical figures and a genius for
enthusiasm and sympathy with all the oppressed. All these things
have been said far better than I can say them, and I do not repeat

But I desire to hammer this one conviction into your hearts and my
own, that the inmost secret of that noble life, of all that wealth
of capacity, all that load of learning, which he bore lightly like a
flower, was the fact that the man was, to the very depths of his
nature, a devout Christian. He would have been as capable, as
eloquent, and all the rest of it, if he had been an unbeliever. But
he would never have been nor done what he was and did, and he would
never have left the dint of an impressive and lofty personality upon
a whole nation and a world, if beneath the intellect there had not
been character, and beneath character Christianity.

He was far removed, in ecclesiastical connections, from us
Nonconformists, and he held opinions in regard to some very
important ecclesiastical questions which cut straight across some of
our deepest convictions. We never had to look for much favour from
his hands, because his intellectual atmosphere removed him far from
sympathy with many of the truths which are dearest to the members of
the Free Evangelical Churches. But none the less we recognise in him
a brother in Jesus Christ, and rejoice that there, on the high
places of a careless and sceptical generation, there stood a
Christian man.

In this connection I cannot but, though I have no right to do so,
express how profoundly thankful I, for one, was to the present Prime
Minister of England that in his brief eulogium on, I was going to
say, his great rival, he ended all by the emphatic declaration that
Mr. Gladstone was, first and foremost, a great Christian man. Yes;
and there was the secret, as I have already said, not of his merely
political eminence, but of the universal reverence which a nation
expresses to-day. All detraction is silenced, and all calumnies have
dropped away, as filth from the white wings of a swan as it soars,
and with one voice the Empire and the world confess that he was a
great and a good man.

I need not dwell in detail on the thoughts of how, by reason of this
deep underlying fear of God, the other qualifications which are
sketched in our ideal found their realisation in him; how those who,
all through his career, smiled most at the successive enthusiasms
which monopolised his mind, and sometimes at the contrasts between
these, are now ready to admit that, whether the enthusiasms were
right or wrong, there is something noble in the spectacle of a man
ever keeping his mind, even when its windows were beginning to be
dimmed by the frosts of age, open to the beams of new truth. And the
greatest, as some people think, of his political blunders, as we are
beginning, all of us, to recognise, now that party strife is hushed,
was the direct consequence of that ever fresh and youthful
enthusiasm for new thoughts and new lines of action. Innovators aged
eighty are not too numerous.

Nor need I say more than one word about the other part of the ideal,
'hating covetousness.' The giver of peerages by the bushel died a
commoner. The man that had everything at his command made no money,
nor anything else, out of his long years of office, except the
satisfaction of having been permitted to render what he believed to
be the highest of service to the nation that he loved so well. Like
our whilom neighbour, the other great commoner, John Bright, he
lived among his own people; and like Samuel, of whom I have already
spoken, he could stretch out his old hands and say, 'They are
clean.' One scarcely feels as if, to such a life, a State funeral in
Westminster Abbey was congruous. One had rather have seen him laid
among the humble villagers who were his friends and companions, and
in the quiet churchyard which his steps had so often traversed. But
at all events the ideal was realised, and we all know what it was.

Might I say one word more? As this great figure passes out of men's
sight to nobler work, be sure, on widened horizons corresponding to
his tutored and exercised powers, does he leave no lessons behind
for us? He leaves one very plain, homely one, and that is, 'Work
while it is called to-day.' No opulence of endowment tempted this
man to indolence, and no poverty of endowment will excuse us for
sloth. Work is the law of our lives; and the more highly we are
gifted, the more are we bound to serve.

He leaves us another lesson. Follow convictions as they open before
you, and never think that you have done growing, or have reached
your final stage.

He leaves another lesson. Do not suppose that the Gospel of Jesus
Christ cannot satisfy the keenest intellect, nor dominate the
strongest will. It has come to be a mark of narrowness and
fossilhood to be a devout believer in Christ and His Cross. Some of
you young men make an easy reputation for cleverness and advanced
thought by the short and simple process of disbelieving what your
mother taught you. Here is a man, probably as great as you are, with

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