Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Expositions of Holy Scripture by Alexander Maclaren

Part 8 out of 12

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

as keen an intellect, and he clung to the Cross of Christ, and had
for his favourite hymn--

'Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.'

He leaves another lesson. If you desire to make your characters all
that it is in them to be made, you must, like him, go to Jesus
Christ, and get your teaching and your inspiration from that great
Lord. We cannot all be great men. Never mind. It is character that
tells; we can all be good men, and we can all be Christian men. And
whether we build cottages or palaces, if we build on one foundation,
and only if we do, they will stand.

Moses leaves another lesson, as he glides into the past. 'This man,
having served his generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and
was gathered to his fathers, and saw corruption'; but He 'whom God
hath raised up saw no corruption.' The lamps are quenched, the sun
shines. Moses dies, 'The prophets, do they live for ever?' but when
Moses and Elias faded from the Mount of Transfiguration 'the
apostles saw no man any more, save Jesus only,' and the voice said,
'This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him.'


'And God spake all these words, saying, 2. I am the Lord
thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of
Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3. Thou shalt have
no other gods before me. 4. Thou shalt not make unto
thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing
that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth
beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:
for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the
iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third
and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6. And
shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and
keep my commandments. 7. Thou shalt not take the name of
the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him
guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 8. Remember the
sabbath-day, to keep it holy. 9. Six days shalt thou
labour, and do all thy work: 10. But the seventh day is
the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do
any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy
man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor
thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11. For in six
days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all
that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore
the Lord blessed the sabbath-day, and hallowed it.'
--EXODUS xx. 1-11.

An obscure tribe of Egyptian slaves plunges into the desert to hide
from pursuit, and emerges, after forty years, with a code gathered
into 'ten words,' so brief, so complete, so intertwining morality
and religion, so free from local or national peculiarities, so close
fitting to fundamental duties, that it is to-day, after more than
three thousand years, authoritative in the most enlightened peoples.
The voice that spoke from Sinai reverberates in all lands. The Old
World had other lawgivers who professed to formulate their precepts
by divine inspiration: they are all fallen silent. But this voice,
like the trumpet on that day, waxes louder and louder as the years
roll. Whose voice was it? The only answer explaining the supreme
purity of the commandments, and their immortal freshness, is found
in the first sentence of this paragraph, 'God spake all these

I. We have first the revelation, which precedes and lays the
foundation for the commandments; 'I am the Lord thy God, which have
brought thee out of the land of Egypt.' God speaks to the nation as
a whole, establishing a special relation between Himself and them,
which is founded on His redeeming act, and is reciprocal, requiring
that they should be His people, as He is their God. The
manifestation in act of His power and of His love precedes the claim
for reverence and obedience. This is a universal truth. God gives
before He asks us to give. He is not a hard taskmaster, 'gathering
where He has not strawn.' Even in that system which is eminently
'the law,' the foundation is a divine act of deliverance, and only
when He has won the people for Himself by redeeming them from
bondage does He call on them for obedience. His rule is built on
benefits. He urges no mere right of the mightier, nor cares for
service which is not the glad answer of gratitude. The flashing
flames which ran as swift heralds before His descending chariot
wheels, the quaking mountain, the long-drawn blasts of the trumpet,
awed the gathered crowd. But the first articulate words made a
tenderer appeal, and sought to found His right to command on His
love, and their duty to obey on their gratitude. The great gospel
principle, that the Redeemer is the lawgiver, and the redeemed are
joyful subjects because their hearts are touched with love,
underlies the apparently sterner system of the Old Testament. God
opens His heart first, and then asks for men's.

This prelude certainly confines the Decalogue to the people of
Israel. Their deliverance is the ground on which the law is rested,
therefore, plainly, the obligation can be no wider than the benefit.
But though we are not bound to obey any of the Ten Commandments,
because they were given to Israel, they are all, with one exception,
demonstrably, a transcript of laws written on the heart of mankind;
and this fact carries with it a strong presumption that the law of
the Sabbath, which is the exception referred to, should be regarded
as not an exception, but as a statute of the primeval law, witnessed
to by conscience, republished in wondrous precision and completeness
in these venerable precepts. The Ten Commandments are binding on us;
but they are not binding as part, though the fundamental part, of
the Jewish law.

Two general observations may be made. One is on the negative
character of the commandments as a whole. Law prohibits because men
are sinful. But prohibitions pre-suppose as their foundation
positive commands. We are forbidden to do something because we are
inclined to do it, and because we ought to do the opposite. Every
'thou shalt not' implies a deeper 'thou shalt.' The cold negation
really rests on the converse affirmative command.

The second remark on the law as a whole is as to the relation which
it establishes between religion and morality, making the latter a
part of the former, but regarding it as secured only by the prior
discharge of the obligations of the former. Morality is the garb of
religion; religion is the animating principle of morality. The
attempts to build up a theory of ethics without reference to our
relations to God, or to secure the practice of righteousness without
such reference, or to substitute, with a late champion of unbelief,
'the service of man' for the worship of God, are all condemned by
the deeper and simpler wisdom of this law. Christians should learn
the lesson, which the most Jewish of the New Testament writers had
drawn from it, that, 'pure and undefiled service' of God is the
service of man, and should beware of putting asunder what God has
joined so closely.

II. The first commandment bears in its negative form marks of the
condition of the world when it was spoken, and of the strong
temptation to polytheism which the Israelites were to resist.
Everywhere but in that corner among the wild rocks of Sinai, men
believed in 'gods many.' Egypt swarmed with them; and, no doubt, the
purity of Abraham's faith had been sadly tarnished in his sons. We
cannot understand the strange fascination of polytheism. It is a
disease of humanity in an earlier stage than ours. But how strong it
was and is, all history shows. All these many gods were on amicable
terms with one another, and ready to welcome newcomers. But the
monotheism, which was here laid at the very foundation of Israel's
national life, parted it by a deep gulf from all the world, and
determined its history.

The prohibition has little force for us; but the positive command
which underlies it is of eternal force. We should rather think of it
as a revelation and an invitation than as a mere command. For what
is it but the declaration that at the centre of things is throned,
not a rabble of godlings, nor a stony impersonal somewhat, nor a
hypothetical unknowable entity, nor a shadowy abstraction, but a
living Person, who can say 'Me,' and whom we can call on as 'Thou,'
and be sure that He hears? No accumulation of finite excellences,
however fair, can satisfy the imagination, which feels after one
Being, the personal ideal of all perfectness. The understanding
needs one ultimate Cause on which it can rest amid the dance of
fleeting phenomena; the heart cannot pour out its love to be shared
among many. No string of goodly pearls will ever give the
merchantman assurance that his quest is complete. Only when human
nature finds all in One, and that One a living Person, the Lover and
Friend of all souls, does it fold its wings and rest as a bird after
long flight.

The first commandment enjoins, or rather blesses us by showing us
that we may cherish, supreme affection, worship, trust, self-
surrender, aspiration, towards one God. After all, our God is that
which we think most precious, for which we are ready to make the
greatest sacrifices, which draws our warmest love; which, lost,
would leave us desolate; which, possessed, makes us blessed. If we
search our hearts with this 'candle of the Lord,' we shall find many
an idol set up in their dark corners, and be startled to discover
how much we need to bring ourselves to be judged and condemned by
this commandment It is the foundation of all human duty. Obedience
to it is the condition of peace and blessedness, light and leading
for mind, heart, will, affections, desires, hopes, fears, and all
the world within, that longs for one living Person even when it
least knows the meaning of its longings and the reason of its

III. The second commandment forbids all representations, whether of
the one God or of false deities. The golden calf, which was a symbol
of Jehovah, is condemned equally with the fair forms that haunted
the Greek Olympus, or the half-bestial shapes of Egyptian mythology.
The reasons for the prohibition may be considered as two,--the
impossibility of setting forth the glory of the Infinite Spirit in
any form, and the certainty that the attempt will sink the
worshipper deeper in the mire of sense. An image degrades God and
damages men. By it religion reverses its nature, and becomes another
clog to keep the soul among the things seen, and an ally of all
fleshly inclinations. We know how idolatry seemed to cast a spell
over the Israelites from Egypt to Babylon, and how their first
relapse into it took place almost before the voice which 'spake all
these words' had ceased.

In its grosser form, we have no temptation to it. But there are
other ways of breaking the commandment than setting up an image. All
sensuous worship in which the treacherous aid of art is called in to
elevate the soul, comes perilously near to contradicting its spirit,
if not its letter. The attempt to make of the senses a ladder for
the soul to climb to God by, is a great deal more likely to end in
the soul's going down the ladder than up it. The history of public
worship in the Christian Church teaches that the less it has to do
with such slippery help the better. There is a strong current
running in England, at all events, in the direction of bringing in a
more artistic, or, as it is called, a 'less bare,' form of service.
We need to remember that the God who is a Spirit is worshipped 'in
spirit,' and that outward forms may easily choke, and outward aids
hinder, that worship.

The especial difficulty of obedience to this commandment is marked
by the reason or sanction annexed. That opens a wide field, on which
it would be folly to venture here. There is a glimpse of God's
character, and a statement of a law of His working. He is a
'jealous' God, We need not be afraid of the word. It means nothing
but what is congruous with the loftiest conception of a loving God.
It means that He allows of no rival in our hearts' affection, or in
our submission for love's sake to Him. A half trust in God is no
trust. How can worship be shared, or love be parted out, among a
pantheon? Our poor hearts ask of one another and get from one
another, wherever a man and a woman truly love, just what God
asks,--'All in all, or not at all.' His jealousy is but infinite
love seeking to be known as such, and asking for a whole heart.

The law of His providence sounds hard, but it is nothing more than
stating in plain words the course of the world's history, which
cannot be otherwise if there is to be any bond of human society at
all. We hear a great deal in modern language about solidarity (and
sometimes it is spelled with a final 'e,' to look more
philosophical) and heredity. The teaching of this commandment is
simply a statement of the same facts, with the addition that the
Lawgiver is visible behind the law. The consequences of conduct do
not die with the doers. 'The evil that men do, lives after them.'
The generations are so knit together, and the full results of deeds
are often so slow-growing, that one generation sows and another
reaps. Who sowed the seed that fruited in misery, and was gathered
in a bitter harvest of horrors and crimes in the French Revolution?
Who planted the tree under which the citizens of the United States
sit? Did not the seedling go over in the _Mayflower_? As long
as the generations of men are more closely connected than those of
sheep or birds, this solemn word must be true. Let us see that we
sow no tares to poison our children when we are in our graves. The
saying had immediate application to the consequences of idolatry in
the history of Israel, and was a forecast of their future. But it is
true evermore and everywhere.

IV. The third commandment must be so understood as to bring it into
line with the two preceding, as of equal breadth and equally
fundamental. It cannot, therefore, be confined to the use of the
name of God in oaths, whether false or trivial. No doubt, perjury
and profane swearing are included in the sweep of the prohibition;
but it reaches far beyond them. The name of God is the declaration
of His being and character. We take His name 'in vain' when we speak
of Him unworthily. Many a glib and formal prayer, many a mechanical
or self-glorifying sermon, many an erudite controversy, comes under
the lash of this prohibition. Professions of devotion far more
fervid than real, confessions in which the conscience is not
stricken, orthodox teachings with no throb of life in them,
unconscious hypocrisies of worship, and much besides, are gibbeted
here. The most vain of all words are those which have become
traditional stock in trade for religious people, which once
expressed deep convictions, and are now a world too wide for the
shrunk faith which wears them.

The positive side underlying the negative is the requirement that
our speech of God shall fit our thought of God, and our thought of
Him shall fit His Name; that our words shall mirror our affections,
and our affection be a true reflection of His beauty and sweetness;
that cleansed lips shall reverently utter the Name above every name,
which, after all speech, must remain unspoken; and that we shall
feel it to be not the least wonderful or merciful of His
condescensions that He 'is extolled with our tongues.'

V. The series of commandments referring to Israel's relations with
God is distinctly progressive from the first to the fourth, which
deals with the Sabbath. The fact that it appears here, side by side
with these absolutely universal and first principles of religion and
worship, clearly shows that the giver of the code regarded it as of
equal comprehensiveness. If we believe that the giver of the code
was God, we seem shut up to the conclusion that, though the Sabbath
is a positive institution, and in so far unlike the preceding
commandments, it is to be taken as not merely a temporary or Jewish
ordinance. The ground on which it is rested here points to the same
conclusion. The version of the Decalogue in Deuteronomy bases it on
the Egyptian deliverance, but this, on the divine rest after
creation. As we have already said, we do not regard the Decalogue as
binding on us because given to Israel; but we do regard it as
containing laws universally binding, which are written by God's
finger, not on tables of stone, but on 'the fleshly tables of the
heart.' All the others are admittedly of this nature. Is not the
Sabbath law likewise? It is not, indeed, inscribed on the
conscience, but is the need for it not stamped on the physical
nature? The human organism requires the seventh-day rest, whether
men toil with hand or brain. Historically, it is not true that the
Sabbath was founded by this legislation. The traces of its
observance in Genesis are few and doubtful; but we know from the
inscriptions that the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-
eighth days of the moon were set apart by the Assyrians, and
scholars can supply other instances. The 'Remember' of this
commandment can scarcely be urged as establishing this, for it may
quite as naturally be explained to mean 'Remember, as each
successive seventh day comes round, to consecrate it.' But apart
from that, the law written on body, mind, and soul says plainly to
all men, 'Rest on the seventh day.' Body and mind need repose; the
soul needs quiet communion with God. No vigorous physical,
intellectual, or religious life will long be kept up, if that need
be disregarded. The week was meant to be given to work, which is
blessed and right if done after the pattern of God's. The Sabbath
was meant to lift to a share in His rest, to bring eternity into
time, to renew wasted strength 'by a wise passiveness,' and to draw
hearts dissipated by contact with fleeting tasks back into the
stillness where they can find themselves in fellowship with God.

We have not the Jewish Sabbath, nor is it binding on us. But as men
we ought to rest, and resting, to worship, on one day in the week.
The unwritten law of Christianity, moulding all outward forms by its
own free spirit, gradually, and without premeditation, slid from the
seventh to the first day, as it had clear right to do. It was the
day of Christ's resurrection, probably of His ascension, and of
Pentecost. It is 'the Lord's Day.' In observing it, we unite both
the reasons for the Sabbath given in Exodus and Deuteronomy,--the
completion of a higher creation in the resurrection rest of the Son
of God, and the deliverance from a sorer bondage by a better Moses.
The Christian Sunday and its religious observance are indispensable
to the religious life of individuals and nations. The day of rest is
indispensable to their well-being. Our hard-working millions will
bitterly rue their folly, if they are tempted to cast it away on the
plea of obtaining opportunities for intellectual culture and
enjoyment. It is

'The couch of time, care's balm and bay,'

and we shall be wise if we hold fast by it; not because the Jews
were bid to hallow the seventh day, but because we need it for
repose, and we need it for religion.


'Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be
long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13. Thou shalt not kill. 14. Thou shalt not commit
adultery. 15. Thou shalt not steal. 16. Thou shalt not
bear false witness against thy neighbour. 17. Thou
shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not
covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant, nor
his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing
that is thy neighbour's. 18. And all the people saw the
thunderings and the lightnings, and the noise of the
trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and, when the people
saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. 19. And they
said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear:
but let not God speak with us, lest we die. 20. And Moses
said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove
you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye
sin not. 21. And the people stood afar off: and Moses
drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.'
--EXODUS xx. 12-21.

I. The broad distinction between the two halves of the Decalogue is
that the former deals with man's relations to God, and the latter
with His relations to men. This double division is recognised in the
New Testament summary of 'all the law,' as found in two
commandments, and is probably implied in the two tables on which it
was inscribed. Commentators have been much exercised, however, about
how to divide the commandments between these two parts. The fifth,
which is the first in this division, belongs in substance to the
second half, but its form connects it with the first table. It is
like the preceding ones in having a reason appended, and in naming
'the Lord thy God'; while the following are all bare, curt
prohibitions. The fact seems to be that it is a transition
commandment, and meant to cast special sacredness round the parental
relationship, by paralleling it, in some sense, with that to God, of
which it is a reflection. Other duties to other men stand on a
different level from duties to parents. 'Honour,' which is to be
theirs, is not remote from the reverence due to God. They are, as it
were, His shadows to the child. The fatherhood of God is dimly
revealed in that parting off the commandment from the second table,
and assimilating it in form to the laws of the first.

II. The connection of the two halves of the Decalogue teaches some
important truth. Josephus said a wise thing when he remarked that,
'whereas other legislators had made religion a department of virtue,
Moses made virtue a department of religion.' No theory of morals is
built upon the deepest foundation which does not recognise the final
ground of the obligation of duty in the voice of God. Duty is
_debitum_-debt. Who is the creditor? Myself? An impersonal law?
Society? No, God. The practice of morality depends, like its theory,
on religion. In the long-run, and on the wide scale, nations and
periods which have lost the latter will not long keep the former in
any vigour or purity. He who begins by erasing the first commandment
will sooner or later make a clean sweep of all the ten. And, on the
other hand, wherever there is true worship of the one God, there all
fair charities between man and man will flourish and fruit. The two
tables are one law. Duties to God come first, and those to man, who
is made in the image of God, flow from these.

III. The order of these human duties is significant. We have, next
after the law of parental reverence, three commandments, which, in a
descending series of importance, forbid crimes against life,
marriage, and property. Then the law passes from deeds to the more
subtle, and, as men think, less grave, offences of the tongue. Next
it crosses the boundary which divides human from divine law, and
crimes from sins, to take cognisance of unspoken and unacted
desires. So the order of progress in the first table is exactly the
reverse of that in the second. There we begin with inward devotion,
and travel outwards by deed and word to the sabbatical institution;
here we begin with overt acts, and travel inwards, through words, to
the hidden desire. The end touches the beginning. For that which we
'covet' is our God; and the first commandment is only obeyed when
our hearts hunger after Him, and not after earth. The sequence here
corresponds to the order of progress in our knowledge and practice
of our human duties. The first thing that the rudest state of
society has to do is to establish some kind of security for life and
property and woman's honour. The worst men know that much as their
duty, however foul may be their lips, and hot their passions. Then
the recognition of the sanctity of the great gift of speech, and the
supreme obligations of veracity, grow upon men as they get above the
earlier stage. Most children pass through a phase when they tell
lies as pastime, and most rude societies and half-moralised men have
a similar epoch. Last of all, when actions have been bridled and the
tongue taught the law of truth, comes the full recognition that the
work is not done till the silent longing of a hungry heart is
stilled, and that unselfish love of our neighbour is only perfect
when we can rejoice in his good and wish none of it for ourselves.
The second table is a chart of moral progress.

IV. The scope of these laws has often been violently stretched so as
to include all human duty; but without tugging at them so as to make
them cover everything, we may note briefly how far they extend. We
are scarcely warranted in taking any of them but the last, as going
deeper than overt acts, for, though our Lord has taught in the
Sermon on the Mount that hatred is murder, and impure desire
adultery, that is His deepening of the commandment. But it is quite
fair to bring out the positive precept which, in each case,
underlies the stern, short prohibition.

The fifth commandment shares with the fourth the distinction of
being a positive command. It enjoins 'honour,' not 'love,' partly
because, in olden times, the father was a prince in his house in a
sense that has long since ceased to be true, partly because there
was less need to enjoin the affection which is in some degree
instinctive, than the submission and respect which the children are
tempted to withhold, partly in order to suggest the analogy with
reverence to God. A strange change has passed over the relations of
parents and children, even within a generation. There is more,
perhaps, of frank familiar intercourse, which, no doubt, is an
improvement on the old style. But there is a great deal less of what
the commandment enjoins. City life, education, the general impairing
of the idea of authority, which we see everywhere, have told upon
many families; and many a father who, by indulgence or by too much
engrossment in business, lets the children twitch the reins out of
his hands, might lament, as his grown-up children spurn control, 'If
then I be a father, where is mine honour?' There is no one of the
commandments which it is more needful to preach in England than

The promise attached to it has another side of threatening. It is a
plain fact that when the paternal relation is corrupted, a powerful
solvent has been introduced which rapidly tends to disintegrate
society. The most ancient empire in the world today, China, has,
amid many vices and follies, been preserved mainly by the profound
reverence to ancestors which is largely its real working religion.
The most vigorous power in the old world, Rome, owed its iron might
not only to its early simplicity of life and its iron tenacity, but
to the strength of paternal authority and the willingness of filial
obedience. No more serious damage can be inflicted on society or on
individuals than the weakening of the honour paid to fathers and

'Thou shalt not kill' forbids not only the act of murder, but all
that endangers life. It enjoins all care, diligence, and effort to
preserve it. A man who looks on while another drowns, or who sends a
ship out half manned and overloaded, breaks it as really as a red-
handed murderer. But the commandment was not intended to touch the
questions of capital punishment or of war. These were allowed under
the Jewish code, and cannot therefore be supposed to be prohibited
here. How far either is consistent with the deepest meaning of the
law, as expanded and reconsecrated in Christianity, is another
question. Their defenders have to execute some startling feats of
gymnastics to harmonise either with the New Testament.

'Curus kind o' Christian dooty,
This 'ere cuttin' folks's throats.'

The ground of the commandment is not given, seeing that conscience
is expected to admit its force as soon as stated. But its place at
the head of the second table brings it into connection with the
first commandment, and suggests that man's life is sacred because he
is the image of God. As Christians, we are bound to interpret it on
the lines which Christ has laid down; according to which, hatred is
murder, and love is the fulfilling of this as of all other laws. So
Luther's comprehensive summing up of the duties enjoined may be
accepted: 'Patience, gentleness, kindliness, peaceableness, pity,
and, of all things, a sweet, friendly heart, without any hate,
anger, bitterness, toward any, even enemies.'

In like manner, the seventh commandment sanctifies wedded life, and is
the first step in that true reverence of woman which marked the Jewish
people through all their history, and was in such contrast to her
position in all other ancient societies. Purity in all the relations
of the sexes, the control of passion, the reverence for marriage, are
subjects difficult to speak of in public. But modern society sorely
needs some plain speaking on these subjects--abundance of bread and
idleness, facilities for divorce, the filth which newspapers lay down
on every breakfast-table, the insidious sensuality of much fiction and
art, the licence of the stage. The opportunities for secret profligacy
in great cities conspire to loosen the bonds of morality. I would
venture to ask public teachers seriously to consider their duty in this
matter, and to seek for opportunities wisely to warn budding youth of
the pitfalls in its path.

What is 'stealing'? As Luther says, 'It is the smallest part of the
thieves that are hung. If we are to hang them all, where shall we
get rope enough? We must make all our belts and straps into

Theft is the taking or keeping what is not 'mine.' But what do we
mean by 'mine'? Communists tell us that 'property is theft.' But
that is the exaggeration of the scriptural teaching that all
property is trust property, that possessions are 'mine' on
conditions and for purposes, that I cannot 'do what I will with mine
own,' but am a steward, set to dispense it to those who want. The
Christian doctrine of stewardship extends this commandment over much
ground which we seldom think of as affected by it. All sharp
practice in business, the shopkeeper's false weights and the
merchant's equivalents of these, adulterations, pirating trademarks,
imitating a rival's goods, infringing patents, and the like, however
disguised by fine names, are neither more nor less than stealing.
Many a prosperous gentleman says solemnly every Sunday of his life,
'Incline our hearts to keep this law,' who would have to live in a
much more modest fashion if his prayer were, by any unfortunate
accident, answered.

False witness is not only given in court. The sins of the tongue
against the law of love are more subtle and common than those of
act. 'Come, let us enjoy ourselves, and abuse our neighbours,' is
the real meaning of many an invitation to social intercourse. If
some fairy could treat our newspapers as the Russian censors do, and
erase all the lies about the opposite side, which they report and
coin, how many blank columns there would be! If all the words of
ill-natured calumny, of uncharitable construction of their friends
which people speak, could be made inaudible, what stretches of
silence would open out in much animated talk! 'A man that beareth
false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a
sharp arrow.'

But deed and word will not be right unless the heart be right; and
the heart will be wrong unless it be purged of the bitter black drop
of covetousness. The desire to make my neighbour's goods mine is the
parent of all breaches of neighbourly duty, even as its converse
'love' is the fulfilling of it all; for such desire implies that I
am ruled by selfishness, and that I would willingly deprive another
of goods, for my own gratification. Such a temper, like a wild boar
among vineyards, will trample down all the rich clusters in order to
slake its own thirst. Find a man who yields to his desires after his
neighbour's goods, and you find a man who will break all
commandments like a hornet in a spider's web. Be he a Napoleon, and
glorified as a conqueror and hero, or be he some poor thief in a
jail, he has let his covetousness get the upper hand, and so all
wrong-doing is possible. Nor is it only the second table which
covetousness dashes to fragments. It serves the first in the same
fashion; for, as St. Paul puts it, the covetous man 'is an
idolater,' and is as incapable of loving God as of loving his
neighbour. This final commandment, overleaping the boundary between
conduct and character, and carrying the light of duty into the dark
places of the heart, where deeds are fashioned, sets the whole flock
of bats and twilight-loving creatures in agitation. It does what is
the main work of the law, in compelling us to search our hearts, and
in convincing of sin. It is the converse of the thought that all the
law is contained in love; for it closes the list of sins with one
which begets them all, and points us away from actions and words
which are its children to selfish desire as in itself the
transgression of all the law, whether it be that which prescribes
our relations to God or that which enjoins our duties to man,


'And the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of thy
labours, which them hast sown In thy field: and the
feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year,
when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.'
--EXODUS xxiii. 16.

The Israelites seem to have had a double beginning of the year--one
in spring, one at the close of harvest; or it may only be that here
the year is regarded from the natural point of view--a farmer's
year. This feast was at the gathering in of the fruits, which was
the natural close of the agricultural year.

This festival of ingathering was the Feast of Tabernacles. It is
remarkable that the three great sacred festivals, the Passover,
Pentecost, Tabernacles, had all a reference to agriculture, though
two of them also received a reference to national deliverances. This
fact may show that they were in existence before Moses, and that he
simply imposed a new meaning on them.

Be that as it may, I take these words now simply as a starting-point
for some thoughts naturally suggested by the period at which we
stand. We have come to the end of another year--looked for so long,
passed so swiftly, and now seeming to have so utterly departed!

I desire to recall to you and to myself the solemn real sense in
which for us too the end of the year is a 'time of ingathering' and
'harvest.' We too begin the new year with the accumulated
consequences of these past days in our 'barns and garners.'

Now, in dealing with this thought, let me put it in two or three

I. Think of the past as still living in and shaping the present.

It is a mere illusion of sense that the past is gone utterly. 'Thou
carriest them away, as with a flood.' We speak of it as irrevocable,
unalterable, that dreadful past. It is solemnly true that 'ye shall
no more return that way.'

But there is a deeper truth in the converse thought that the
apparently transient is permanent, that nothing human ever dies,
that the past is present. 'The grass withereth, the flower fadeth,'--yes,
but only its petals drop, and as they fall, the fruit which they
sheltered swells and matures.

The thought of the present as the harvest from the past brings out
in vivid and picturesque form two solemn truths.

The first is the passing away of all the external, but of it only.
It has all gone where the winter's cold, the spring rains, the
summer's heats have gone. But just as these live in the fruitful
results that have accrued from them, just as the glowing sunshine of
the departed ardent summer is in the yellow, bending wheat-ear or
glows in the cluster, so, in a very solemn sense, 'that which hath
been is now' in regard to every life. The great law of continuity
makes the present the inheritor of the past. That law operates in
national life, in which national characteristics are largely
precipitates, so to speak, from national history. But it works even
more energetically, and with yet graver consequences, in our
individual lives. 'The child is father of the man.' What we are
depends largely on what we have been, and what we have been
powerfully acts in determining what we shall be. Life is a mystic
chain, not a heap of unconnected links.

And there is another very solemn way in which the past lives on in
each of us. For not only is our present self the direct descendant
of our past selves, but that past still subsists in that we are
responsible for it, and shall one day have to answer for it. The
writer of Ecclesiastes followed the statement just now quoted as to
the survival of the past, with another, which is impressive in its
very vagueness: 'God seeketh again that which is passed away.'

So the undying past lives in its results in ourselves, and in our
being answerable for it to God.

This metaphor is insufficient in one respect. There is not one epoch
for sowing and another for reaping, but the two processes are
simultaneous, and every moment is at once a harvest and a seed-time.

This fact masks the reality of the reaping here, but it points on to
the great harvest when God shall say, 'Gather the wheat into My

II. Notice some specific forms of this reaping and ingathering.

(1) Memory.

It is quite possible that in the future it may embrace all the life.

'Chambers of imagery.'

(2) Habits and character. Like the deposit of a flood. 'Habitus'
means clothing, and cloth is woven from single threads.

(3) Outward consequences, position, reputation, etc.

III. Make a personal reference to ourselves.

What sort of harvest are we carrying over from this year? Lay this to
heart as certain, that we enter on no new year--or new day--empty-handed,
but always 'bearing our sheaves with us.' 'Be not deceived! God is not
mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.'

But remember, that while this law remains, there is also the law of
forgiveness, 'Go in peace!' and there may be a new beginning, 'Sin
no more!'


'And He said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou,
and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders
of Israel; and worship ye afar off. 2. And Moses alone
shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come nigh,
neither shall the people go up with him. 3. And Moses
came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and
all the judgments: and all the people answered with one
voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said
will we do. 4. And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord,
and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar
under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the
twelve tribes of Israel. 5. And he sent young men of the
children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and
sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto the Lord. 6. And
Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and
half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7. And he
took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience
of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said
will we do, and be obedient. 8. And Moses took the blood,
and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the
blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you
concerning all these words. 9. Then went up Moses and
Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of
Israel; 10. And they saw the God of Israel: and there
was under His feet as it were a pared work of a sapphire-
stone, and as it were the body of heaven in His clearness.
11. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid
not His hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
12. And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to Me into the
mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of
stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written;
that thou mayest teach them,'--EXODUS xxiv. 1-12.

An effort is needed to feel what a tremendous and unique fact is
narrated in these words. Next to the incarnation, it is the most
wonderful and far-reaching moment in history. It is the birthday of
a nation, which is God's son. It is the foundation stone of all
subsequent revelation. Its issues oppress that ancient people to-
day, and its promises are not yet exhausted. It is history, not
legend, nor the product of later national vanity. Whatever may come
of analysing 'sources' and of discovering 'redactors,' Israel held a
relation to God all its own; and that relation was constituted thus.

I. Note the preliminaries of the covenant. The chapter begins with
the command to Moses to come up to the mount, with Aaron and other
representatives of the people. But he was already there when the
command was given, and a difficulty has been found (or, shall we
say, made) out of this. The explanation seems reasonable and plain
enough, that the long section extending from Exodus xx. 22, and
containing the fundamental laws as spoken by God, is closed by our
verses 1 and 2, which imply, in the very order to Moses to come up
with his companions, that he must first go down to bring them. God
dismisses him as a king might end an audience with his minister, by
bidding him return with attendants. The singular use of the third
person in reference to Moses in the third verse is not explained by
supposing another writer; for, whoever wrote it, it would be equally

So he comes down from the stern cloud-encircled peak to that great
plain where the encampment lay, and all eyes watch his descent. The
people gather round him, eager and curious. He recounts 'all the
judgments,' the series of laws, which had been lodged in his mind by
God, and is answered by the many-voiced shout of too swiftly
promised obedience. Glance over the preceding chapters, and you will
see how much was covered by 'all that the Lord hath spoken.'
Remember that every lip which united in that lightly made vow drew
its last breath in the wilderness, because of disobedience, and the
burst of homage becomes a sad witness to human weakness and
changefulness. The glory of God flashed above them on the barren
granite, the awful voice had scarcely died into desert silence,
nerves still tingled with excitement, and wills were bowed before
Jehovah, manifestly so near. For a moment, the people were ennobled,
and obedience seemed easy. They little knew what they were saying in
that brief spasm of devotion. It was high-water then, but the tide
soon turned, and all the ooze and ugliness, covered now, lay bare
and rotting. 'Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that
thou shouldest vow and not pay.' We may take the lesson to
ourselves, and see to it that emotion consolidates into strenuous
persistency, and does not die in the very excitement of the vow.

The pledge of obedience was needed before the Covenant could be
made, and, as we shall find, was reiterated in the very centre of
the ceremonial ratification. For the present, it warranted Moses in
preparing for the morrow's ritual. His first step was to prepare a
written copy of the laws to which the people had sworn. Here we come
across an old, silenced battery from which a heavy fire used to be
directed against the historical accuracy of the Pentateuch.
Alphabetic writing was of a later date. There could not have been a
written code. The statement was a mere attempt of a later age to
claim antiquity for comparatively modern legislation. It was no more
historical than similar traditions in other countries, Sibylline
books, etc. All that is out of court now. Perhaps some other guns
will be spiked in due time, that make a great noise just at present.
Then comes the erection of a rude altar, surrounded by twelve
standing stones, just as on the east of Jordan we may yet see
dolmens and menhirs. The altar represents the divine presence; and
the encircling stones, Israel gathered around its God. The group is
a memorial and a witness to the people,--and a witness against them,
if disobedient. Thus two permanent records were prepared, the book
and the monument. The one which seemed the more lasting has
perished; the more fragile has endured, and will last to the world's

II. Note the rite of ratification of the covenant. The ceremonial is
complex and significant. We need not stay on the mere picture,
impressive and, to our eyes, strange as it is, but rather seek to
bring out the meaning of these smoking offerings, and that blood
flung on the altar and on the crowd. First came two sorts of
sacrifices, offered not by priests, but by selected young men,
probably one for each tribe, whose employment in sacrificial
functions shows the priestly character of the whole nation,
according to the great words of Exodus xix. 6. Burnt-offerings and
peace-offerings differed mainly in the use made of the sacrifice,
which was wholly consumed by fire in the former, while it was in
part eaten by the offerer in the latter. The one symbolised entire
consecration; the other, communion with God on the basis of
sacrifice. The sin-offering does not appear here, as being of later
origin, and the product of the law, which deepened the consciousness
of transgression. But these sacrifices, at the threshold of the
covenant, receive an expiatory character by the use made of the
blood, and witness to the separation between God and man, which
renders amity and covenant friendship impossible, without a

They must have yielded much blood. It is divided into two parts,
corresponding to the two parties to the covenant, like the cloven
animals in Abraham's covenant. One half is 'sprinkled' on the altar,
or, as the word means, 'swung,'--which suggests a larger quantity
and a more vehement action than 'sprinkling' does. That drenching of
the altar with gore is either a piece of barbarism or a solemn
symbol of the central fact of Christianity no less than of Judaism,
and a token that the only footing on which man can be received into
fellowship with God is through the offering of a pure life, instead
of the sinner, which, accepted by God, covers or expiates sin. There
can be no question that the idea of expiation is at the very
foundation of the Old Testament ritual. It is fashionable to regard
the expiatory element of Christianity as 'Hebrew old clothes,' but
the fact is the other way about. It is not that Christianity has not
been able to rid itself of a rude and false conception, but that
'Judaism' had its sacrifices appointed by God, in order to prepare
the way for the true offering, which takes away sin.

The expiation by blood having been thus made, the hindrances to the
nation's entering into covenant are removed. Therefore follows in
logical order the next step, their formal (alas! how purely formal
it proved to be) taking on themselves its obligations. The freshly
written 'book' is produced, and read there, to the silent people,
before the bloody altar, beneath the peak of Sinai. Again the chorus
of assent from a thousand throats echoes among the rocks. They
accept the conditions. They had done so last night; but this is the
actual contract on their part, and its place in the whole order of
the ceremony is significant. It follows expiation, without which man
cannot enter into friendship with God, without the acceptance of
which man will not yield himself in obedience. The vows which God
approves are those of men whose sins are covered.

The final step was the sprinkling of the people with the blood. The
division of the blood into two portions signifies that it had an
office in regard to each party to the covenant. If it had been
possible to pour it all on the altar, and then all on the people,
that would have been done. The separation into two portions was
inevitable; but in reality it is the same blood which, sprinkled on
the altar, expiates, and on the worshipper, consecrates, cleanses,
unites to God, and brings into covenant with Him. Hence Moses
accompanies the sprinkling of the people with the explanation, 'This
is the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you,
upon all these conditions' (Rev. Ver. margin). It ratifies the
compact on both sides. God 'hath made' it, in accepting the
sprinkled blood; they have made it, in being sprinkled therewith.
But while the rite sets forth the great gospel truth of expiation,
the Covenant moves within the region of law. It is made 'on the
basis of all these words,' and is voidable by disobedience. It is
the _Magna Charta_ of the nation, and its summing up is 'this
do, and thou shalt live.' Its promises are mainly of outward
guardianship and national blessings. And these are suspended by it,
as they were in fact contingent, on the national observance of the
national vow. The general idea of a covenant is that of a compact
between two parties, each of whom comes under obligations contingent
on the other's discharge of his. Theologians have raised the
question whether God's covenant is of this kind. Surely it is. His
promises to Israel had an 'if,' and the fulfilment of the conditions
necessarily secured the accomplishment of the promises. The ritual
of the first covenant transcends the strictly retributive compact
which it ratified, and shadows a gospel beyond law, even the new
covenant which brings better gifts, and does not turn on 'do,' but
simply on the sprinkling with the blood of Jesus. The words of Moses
were widened to carry a blessing beyond his thoughts, which was
disclosed when, in an upper chamber, a dying man said to the twelve
representatives of the true Israel, 'This is the new covenant in My
blood, drink ye all of it.' The blood which Moses sprinkled gave
ritual cleansing, but it remained outside the man. The blood of
Jesus gives true purification, and passes into our veins to become
our life. The covenant by Moses was 'do and live'; that in Christ is
'believe and live.' Moses brought commandments, and on them his
covenant was built; Christ brings gifts, and His covenant is all
promises, which are ours on the simple condition of taking them.

III. Note the vision and feast on the basis of the covenant. The
little company that climbed the mountain, venturing within the
fence, represented the whole people. Aaron and his sons were the
destined priests. The elders were probably seventy, because that
number is the product of the two perfect numbers, and perhaps with
allusion to the seventy souls who went down into Egypt with Jacob.
It is emphatically said that they saw 'the God of Israel,' for that
day's covenant had made him so in a new closeness of relationship.
In token of that new access to and possession in Him, which was
henceforth to be the prerogative of the obedient people, some
manifestation of His immediate presence was poured on their
astonished eyes. It is needless to inquire its nature, or to ask how
such a statement is consistent with the spirituality of the divine
nature, or with what this same book of Exodus says, 'There shall no
man see Me, and live.' The plain intention is to assert that there
was a visible manifestation of the divine presence, but no attempt
is made to describe it. Our eyes are stayed at the pavement beneath
His feet, which was blue as sapphire, and bright as the cloudless
sky gleaming above Sinai. It is enough to learn that 'the secret of
the Lord is with them' to whom He shows 'His covenant'; that, by the
power of sacrifice, a true vision of God may be ours, which is 'in a
mirror, darkly,' indeed, but yet is real and all sufficing. Before
the covenant was made, Israel had been warned to keep afar lest He
should break through on them, but now 'He laid not His hand' upon
them; for only blessing can stream from His presence now, and His
hand does not crush, but uphold.

Nor is this all which we learn of the intercourse with God which is
possible on the ground of His covenant. They 'did eat and drink.'
That may suggest that the common enjoyments of the natural life are
in no way inconsistent with the vision of God; but more probably it
is meant to teach a deeper lesson. We have remarked that the ritual
of the peace-offering included a feast on the sacrifice 'before the
Lord,' by which was signified communion with Him, as at His table,
and this meal has the same meaning. They who stand in covenant
relations with God, feed and feast on a sacrifice, and thereby hold
fellowship with Him, since He too has accepted the sacrifice which
nourishes them. So that strange banquet on Sinai taught a fact which
is ever true, prophesied the deepest joys of Christian experience,
which are realised in the soul that eats the flesh and drinks the
blood of Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant, and dimly
shadowed the yet future festival, when, cleansed and consecrated by
His blood, they who have made a covenant with Him by His sacrifice,
shall be gathered unto Him in the heavenly mount, where He makes a
'feast of fat things and wines on the lees well refined,' and there
shall sit, for ever beholding His glory, and satisfied with the
provisions of His house.


'Thou shalt set upon the table shew-bread before Me
alway.'--EXODUS xxv. 30.

I suspect that to many readers the term 'shew-bread' conveys little
more meaning than if the Hebrew words had been lifted over into our
version. The original expression, literally rendered, is 'bread of
the face'; or, as the Revised Version has it in the margin,
'presence bread,' and the meaning of that singular designation is
paraphrased and explained in my text: 'Thou shalt set upon the
table, bread of the presence before Me always.' It was bread, then,
which was laid in the presence of God. The directions with regard to
it may be very briefly stated. Every Sabbath the priests laid upon
the table which stood on one side of the Altar of Incense, in the
Inner Court, two piles of loaves, on each of which piles was placed
a pan of incense. They lay there for a week, being replaced by fresh
ones on the coming Sabbath.

The Altar of Incense in the middle symbolised the thought that the
priestly life, which was the life of the nation, and is the life of
the Christian both individually and collectively, is to be centrally
and essentially a life of prayer. On one side of it stood the great
golden lamp which, in like manner, declared that the activities of
the priestly life, which was the life of Israel, and is the life of
the Christian individually and collectively, is to be, in its
manward aspect, a light for the world. On the other side of the
Altar of Incense stood this table with its loaves. What does it say
about the life of the priest, the Church, and the individual
Christian? That is the question that I wish to try to answer here;
and in doing so let me first ask you to look at the thing itself,
and then to consider its connection with the other two articles in
connection with which it made a threefold oneness.

I. Let me deal with this singular provision of the ancient ritual by
itself alone.

Bread is a product at once of God's gift and of man's work. In the
former aspect, He 'leaves not Himself without witness, in that,' in
the yearly miracle of the harvest, 'He gives us bread from Heaven,
and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness'; in
the latter, considered as a product of man's activity, agriculture
is, if not the first, at all events in settled communities the
prime, form of human industry. The farmer and the baker begin the
series of man's industries. So that these loaves were fitly taken as
representatives of all kinds of human industry and their products,
and as such were consecrated to God. That is the broad significance
of this institution, which, as we shall have to see, links itself
with the other two conceptions of the priestly life in its Godward
and in its manward aspect. Now the first thing that is suggested,
therefore, is the plain obligation, which is also a blessed
privilege, for all men who are priests of God by faith in, and union
with, the great High Priest, that they lay all their activities as
an offering before God. The loaves in their very place on that
table, right in front of the veil that parted the Inner Court from
the inmost of all, where the Shekinah shone, and the Cherubim bowed
in worship, tell us that in some sense they, too, were an offering,
and that the table was an altar. Their sacrificial character is
emphasised by the fact that upon the top of each of the piles there
was laid a pan of incense.

So, then, the whole was an offering of Israel's activities and its
results to God. And we, Christian men and women, have to make an
offering of all our active life, and all its products. That thought
opens up many considerations, one or two of which I ask leave to
touch briefly. First, then, if my active life is to be an offering
to God, that means that I am to surrender myself. And that surrender
means three things: first that in all my daily work I am to set Him
before me as my end; second, that in all my daily work I am to set
Him before me as my law; third, that in all my daily work I am to
set Him before me as my power. As for the first, whatever a man does
for any motive other, and with any end less, than God and His Glory,
that act, beautiful as it may be in other respects, loses its
supreme beauty, and falls short of perfect nobleness, just in the
measure in which other motives, or other ends, than this supreme
one, are permitted to dominate it. I do not contend for such an
impossible suppression of myself as that my own blessedness and the
like shall be in no manner my end, but I do maintain this, that in
good old language, 'Man's chief end is to glorify God,' and that
anything which I do, unless it is motived by this regard to Him as
its 'chief end,' loses its noblest consecration, and is degraded
from its loftiest beauty. The Altar sanctifies, and not only
sanctifies but ennobles, the gift. That which has in it the taint of
self-regard so pronouncedly and dominantly as that God is shut out,
is like some vegetation down in low levels at the bottom of a vale,
which never has the sun to shine upon it. But let it rise as some
tree above the brushwood until its topmost branches are in the
light, and then it is glorified. To live to self is ignoble and
mean; to live for others is higher and nobler. But highest and
noblest of all is to offer the loaves to God, and to make Him the
end of all our activities.

Again, there is another consideration, bearing on another region in
which the assertive self is only too apt to spoil all work. And that
is, that if our activities are offerings to God, this means that His
supreme Will is to be our law, and that we obey His commands and
accept His appointments in quiet submission. The tranquillity of
heart, the accumulation of power, which come to men when they, from
the depths, say, 'Not my will but Thine be done'; 'Speak, Lord! for
Thy servant heareth,' cannot be too highly stated. There is no such
charm to make life quiet and strong as the submission of the will to
God's providences, and the swift obedience of the will to God's
commandments. And whilst to make self my end mars what else is
beautiful, making self my law mars it even more.

Further, we offer our activities to God when we fall back upon Him
as our one power, and say, 'Perfect Thy strength in my weakness.' He
that goes out into the world to do his daily work, of whatsoever
sort it is--you in your little sphere, or I in mine--in dependence
upon himself, is sure to be defeated. He that says 'we have no
strength against this great multitude that cometh against us, but
our eyes are unto Thee,' will, sooner or later, be able to go back
with joy, and say, 'the Lord hath done great things for us, whereof
we are glad.' The man that goes into the fight like that foolish
prime minister of France under the Empire, 'with a light heart.'
will very soon find his Sedan, and have shamefully to surrender.
Brethren, these three things, making God the end of my work; making
God's will the law of my work; making God's strength the power of my
work; these are the ways by which we, too, can bring our little pile
of barley bread, and lay it upon that table.

Again, this consecration of life's activities is to be carried out
by treating their products, as well as themselves, as offerings to
God. The loaves were the results of human activity. They were also
the products of divine gifts elaborated by human effort. And both
things are true about all the bread that you and I have been able to
make for the satisfaction of our desires, or the sustenance of our
strength--it comes ultimately from the gift of God. In regard to
this consecration of the product of our activities, as well as of
our activities themselves, I have but two words to offer, and the
one is, let us see to it that we consecrate our enjoyment of God's
gifts by bringing that enjoyment, as well as the activities which He
has blessed to produce it, into His presence. That table bore the
symbols of the grateful recognition of God's mercies by the people.
And when our hearts are glad, and our 'bosom's lord sits lightly on
his throne,' we have special need to take care that our joy be not
godless, nor our enjoyment of His gifts be without reference to
Himself. 'Ah,' you say, 'that is a threadbare commonplace.' Yes, it
is, dear friends; it is a commonplace just because it is needful at
every turn, if we are to make our lives what they ought to be.

May I say another thing? and that is, that the loaves that were laid
within the Sanctuary were not intended to be separated from the
others that were eaten in the tents, nor were they meant to be a
kind of purchasing of an indulgence, or of a right, by surrendering
a little, to the godless and selfish enjoyment of the rest of the
batch, or of the rest of the harvest. Let us apply that to our
money, which is one of the products of our activities; and not
fancy, as a great many people do, that what we give as a
subscription to some benevolent or religious institution buys for us
the right to spend all the rest selfishly. That is another
commonplace, very threadbare and very feeble, when we speak it, but
with claws and teeth in it that will lay hold of us, when we try to
put it in practice. The enjoyments and the products of our daily
activities are to be offered to God.

Still further, this table with its burden has suggestions that as
Christians we are bound to bring all our work to Him for His
judgment upon it. The loaves were laid right in front of the veil,
behind which blazed the light of His presence. And that meant that
they were laid before 'those pure eyes and perfect judgment of all-
judging' God. Whether we bring our activities there or no, of course
in a very real and solemn sense they are there. But what I desire to
insist upon now is how important, for the nobleness and purity of
our daily lives, it is that we should be in the continual habit of
realising to ourselves the thought that whatever we do, we do before
His Face. The Roman Catholics talk about 'the practice of the
presence of God.' One does not like the phrase, but all true
religion will practise what is meant by it. And for us it should be
as joyous to think, 'Thou God seest me,' as it is for a child to
play or work with a quiet heart, because it knows that its mother is
sitting somewhere not very far off and watching that no harm comes
to it. That thought of being in His presence would be for us a
tonic, and a test. How it would pull us up in many a meanness, and
keep our feet from wandering into many forbidden ways, if there came
like a blaze of light into our hearts the thought: 'Thou God seest
me!' There are many of our activities, I am afraid, which we should
not like to put down on that table. Can _you_ think of any in
_your_ lives that you would be rather ashamed to lay there, and
say to Him, 'Judge Thou this'? Then do not do it. That is a brief,
but a very stringent, easily applied, and satisfactory test of a
great many doubtful things. If you cannot take them into the Inner
Court, and lay them down there, and say, 'Look, Lord! this is my
baking,' be sure that they are made, not of wholesome flour, but of
poisoned grain, and that there is death in them.

Further, this table, with its homely burden of twelve poor loaves,
may suggest to us how the simplest, smallest, most secular of our
activities is a fit offering to Him. The loaves were not out of
place amidst the sanctities of the spot, nor did they seem to be
incongruous with the golden altar and the golden lamp-stand, and yet
they were but twelve loaves. The poorest of our works is fit to be
carried within the shrine, and laid upon His altar. We may be sure
that He delights even in the meanest and humblest of them, if only
we take them to Him and say: 'All things come of Thee, and of Thine
own have we given Thee.' Ah! there are a great many strange things
in Christ's treasury. Mothers will hoard up trifles that belonged to
their children, which everybody else thinks worthless. Jesus Christ
has in His storehouse a 'cup of cold water,' the widows' mites, and
many another thing that the world counts of no value, and He
recognises as precious. There is an old story about some great
emperor making a progress through his dominions, where he had been
receiving precious gifts from cities and nobles, and as the gay
cortège was passing a poor cottage, the peasant-owner came out with
a coarse earthenware cup filled with spring water in his hand, and
offered it to his overlord as the only gift that he could give. The
king accepted it, and ennobled him on the spot. Take your barley
loaves to Christ, and He will lay them up in His storehouse.

II. Now I need only say a word or two about the other aspect of this
table of shew-bread, taken with the other two articles in
conjunction with which it formed a unity.

The lamp and the table go together. They are both offshoots from the
altar in the middle. That is to say, your lives will not shine
before men unless your activities are offered to God. The smallest
taint of making self your end, your law, or your strength, mingling
with your lives, and manifest in their actions, will dim the light
which shines from them, and men will be very quick to find out and
say, 'He calls himself a Christian; but he lives for himself.'
Neither the light, which is the radiance of a Christian life
manwards, can be sustained without the offering of the life in its
depths to God, nor can the activities of the life be acceptably
offered to Him, unless the man that offers them 'lets his light
shine before men.' The lamp and the table must go together.

The lamp and the table must together be offshoots from the altar. If
there be not in the centre of the life aspiration after Him in the
depths of the heart, communion with Him in the silent places of the
soul, then there will be little brightness in the life to ray out
amongst men, and there will be little consecration of the activities
to be laid before God. The reason why the manifold bustle and busy-
ness of the Christian Church today sows so much and reaps so little,
lies mainly here, that they have forgotten to a large extent how the
altar in the centre must give the oil for the lamp to shine, and the
grain to be made into the loaves. And, on the other hand, the altar
in the middle needs both its flanking accompaniments. For the
Christian life is to be no life of cloistered devotion and
heavenward aspiration only or mainly, but is to manifest its still
devotion and its heavenward aspiration by the consecration of its
activities to God, and the raying of them out into a darkened world.
The service of man is the service of God, for lamp and table are
offshoots of the altar. But the service of God is the basis of the
best service of man, for the altar stands between the lamp and the

So, brethren, let us blend these three aspects into a unity, the
Altar, the Lamp, the Table, and so shall we minister aright, and men
will call us the 'priests of the Most High God,' till we pass within
the veil where, better than the best of us here can do, we shall be
able to unite still communion and active service, and shine as the
sun in the Kingdom of our Father. 'His servants shall serve Him'
with priestly ministrations, 'and shall see His face, and His name
shall be in their foreheads.'


'Thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold....'
--EXODUS xxv. 31.

If we could have followed the Jewish priest as he passed in his
daily ministrations into the Inner Court, we should have seen that
he first piled the incense on the altar which stood in its centre,
and then turned to trim the lamps of the golden candlestick which
flanked it on one side. Of course it was not a candlestick, as our
versions misleadingly render the word. That was an article of
furniture unknown in those days. It was a lampstand; from a central
upright stem branched off on either side three arms decorated with
what the Book calls 'beaten work,' and what we in modern jewellers'
technicality call _répoussé_ work, each of which bore on its
top, like a flower on its stalk, a shallow cup filled with oil, in
which a wick floated. There were thus seven lamps in all, including
that on the central stem. The material was costly, the work adorning
it was artistic, the oil with which it was fed was carefully
prepared, the number of its lamps expressed perfection, it was daily
trimmed by the priest, and there, all through the night, it burned,
the one spot of light in a dark desert.

Now, this Inner Court of the Tabernacle or Temple was intended, with
its furniture, to be symbolical of the life of Israel, the priestly
nation. The Altar of Incense, which was the main article of
ecclesiastical equipment there, and stood in the central place,
represented the life of Israel in its Godward aspect, as being a
life of continual devotion. The Candlestick on the one hand, and the
Table of Shew-bread on the other, were likewise symbolical of other
aspects of that same life. I have to deal now with the meaning and
lessons of this golden lampstand, and it teaches us--

I. The office manwards of the Church and of the individual

Let me just for a moment recall the various instances in which this
symbol reappears in Scripture. We have, in the vision of the prophet
who sustained and animated the spirits of Israel in their Restoration,
the repetition of the emblem, in the great golden candlestick which
Zechariah saw, fed by two 'olive trees,' one on either side of it; and
in the last book of Scripture we have that most significant and
lovely variation of it, the reappearance, not of the _one_ golden
candlestick or lampstand, but of _seven_. The formal unity is at an
end, but the seven constitute a better, more vital unity, because
Christ is in the midst. We may learn the lesson that the Christian
conception of the oneness of the Church towers above the Jewish
conception of the oneness of Israel by all the difference that there is
between a mere mechanical, external unity, and a vital oneness--because
all are partakers of the one Christ. I may recall, also, how our Lord,
in that great programme of the Kingdom which Matthew has gathered
together in what we call 'the Sermon on the Mount,' immediately after
the Beatitudes, goes on to speak of the office of His people under
the two metaphors of 'the salt of the earth' and 'the light of the
world,' and immediately connects with the latter of the two a reference
to a lamp lit and set upon its stand; and clinches the whole by the
exhortation, 'Let your light so shine before men that they may see
your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.'

A remarkable and beautiful variation of that exhortation is found in
one of the Apostolic writings when Paul, instead of saying, 'Ye are
the light of the world,' says, 'Shine as lights in the world,' and
so gives us the individual, as well as the collective and
ecclesiastical, aspect of these great functions. That is a hint that
is very much needed. Christian people are quite willing to admit
that the Church, the abstraction, the generalisation, is 'the light
of the world.' But they are wofully apt to slip their own necks out
from under the yoke of the obligation, and to forget that the
collective light is only the product of the millions of individual
lights rushing together--just as in some gas-lights you have a whole
series of minute punctures, each of which gives out its own little
jet of radiance, and all run together into one brilliant circle. So
do not let us escape the personal pressure of this office, or lay it
all on the broad shoulders of that generalised abstraction 'the
Church.' But, since the collective light is but the product of the
individual small shinings, let us take the two lessons: first,
contribute our part to the general lustre; second, be content with
having our part lost in the general light.

But now let me turn for a little while to the more specific meaning
of this symbol. The life which, by the central position of the Altar
of Incense, was symbolised as being centrally, essentially in its
depths and primarily, a life of habitual devotion and communion with
God, in its manward aspect is a life that shines 'to give the light
of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.'
That is the solemn obligation, the ideal function, of the Christian
Church and of each individual who professes to belong to it. Now, if
you recur to our Lord's own application of this metaphor, to which I
have already referred, you will see that the first and foremost way
by which Christian communities and individuals discharge this
function is by conduct. 'Let your light so shine before men'--that
they may hear your eloquent proclamation of the Gospel? No! 'Let
your light so shine before men'--that you may convince the
gainsayers by argument, or move the hard-hearted by appeals and
exhortations; that you may preach and talk? No! 'That _they may
see your good works_, and glorify your Father which is in
Heaven.' We may say of the Christian community, and of the Christian
individual, with all reverence, what the Scripture in an infinitely
deeper and more sacred sense says of Jesus Christ Himself, 'the life
was the light.' It is conduct, whereby most effectually, most
universally, and with the least risk of rousing antagonism and
hostile feelings, Christian people may 'shine as lights in the
world.' For we all know how the inconsistencies of a Christian man
block the path of the Gospel far more than a hundred sermons or
talks further it. We all know how there are people, plenty of them,
who, however illogically yet most naturally, compare our lives in
their daily action with oar professed beliefs, and, saying to
themselves, 'I do not see that there is much difference between them
and me,' draw the conclusion that it matters very little whether a
man is a Christian or not, seeing that the conduct of the men who
profess to be so is little more radiant, bright with purity and
knowledge and joy, than is the conduct of others. Dear brethren, you
can do far more to help or hinder the spread of Christ's Kingdom by
the way in which you do common things, side by side with men who are
not partakers of the 'like precious faith' with yourselves, than I
or my fellow-preachers can do by all our words. It is all very well
to lecture about the efficiency of a machine; let us see it at work,
and that will convince people. We preach; but you preach far more
eloquently, and far more effectively, by your lives. 'In all
labour,' says the Book of Proverbs, 'there is profit'--which we may
divert from its original meaning to signify that in all Christian
living there is force to attract--'but the talk of the lips tendeth
only to poverty.' Oh! if the Christian men and women of England
would live their Christianity, they would do more to convert the
unconverted, and to draw in the outcasts, than all of us preachers
can do. 'From you,' said the Apostle once to a church very young,
and just rescued from the evils of heathenism--'from you sounded
out,' as if blown from a trumpet, 'the Word of the Lord, so that we
need not to speak anything.' Live the life, and thereby you diffuse
the light.

Nor need we forget that this most potent of all weapons is one that
can be wielded by all Christian people. Our gifts differ. Some of us
cannot speak for Jesus; some of us who think we can had often better
hold our tongues. But we can all live like and for Him. And this
most potent and universally diffused possibility is also the weapon
that can be wielded with least risk of failure. There is a certain
assumption, which it is often difficult to swallow, in a Christian
man's addressing another on the understanding that he, the speaker,
possesses something which the other lacks. By words we may often
repel, and often find that the ears that we seek to enter with our
message close themselves against us and are unwilling to hear. But
there is no chance of offending anybody, or of repelling anybody, by
living Christlike. We can all do that, and it is the largest
contribution that any of us can make to the collective light which
shines out from the Christian Church.

But, brethren, we have to remember that there are dangers attending
the life that reveals its hidden principles as being faith in Christ
and obedience to Him. Did you ever notice how, in the Sermon on the
Mount, there are two sets of precepts which seem diametrically
opposite to one another? There is a whole series of illustrations of
the one commandment, 'Take heed that ye do not your righteousness
before men, to be seen of them,' and then there Is the precept, 'Let
your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.'
So that whilst, on the one hand, there is to be the manifestation in
daily conduct of the inner principles that animate us, on the other
hand, if there comes in the least taint or trace of ostentation,
everything is spoiled, and the light is darkness. The light of the
sun makes all things visible and hides itself. We do not see the
sunbeams, but we see what the sunbeams illuminate. It is the coarser
kinds of light which are themselves separately visible, and they are
so only because they have not power enough to make everything around
them as brilliant as they themselves are. So our light is to be
silent, our light is--if I might use such a phrase--to hide itself
in 'a glorious privacy,' whilst it enables men to see, even through
our imperfect ministration, the face of our Father in Heaven.

But let me remind you that the same variation by Paul of our Lord's
words to which I have already referred as bringing out the
difference between the collective and the individual function, also
brings out another difference; for Paul says, 'Ye shine as lights in
the world, holding forth the word of life.' He slightly varies the
metaphor. We are no longer regarded as being ourselves illuminants,
but simply as being the stands on which the light is placed. And
that means that whilst the witness by life is the mightiest, the
most universally possible, and the least likely to offend, there
must also be, as occasion shall serve, without cowardice, without
shamefaced reticence, the proclamation of the great Gospel which has
made us 'lights in the world.' And that is a function which every
Christian man can discharge too, though I have just been saying that
they cannot all preach and speak; for every Christian soul has some
other soul to whom its word comes with a force that none other can

So the one office that is set forth here is the old familiar one,
the obligation of which is fully recognised by us all, and pitifully
ill-discharged by any of us, to shine by our daily life, and to
shine by the actual communication by speech of 'the Name that is
above every name.' That is the ideal; alas for the reality! 'Ye are
the light of the world.' What kind of light do we--the Church of
Christ that gathers here--ray out into the darkness of Manchester?
Socially, intellectually, morally, in the civic life, in the
national life, are Christian people in the van? They ought to be.
There is a church clock in our city which has a glass dial that
professes to be illuminated at night, so that the passer-by may tell
the hour; but it is generally burning so dimly that nobody can see
on its grimy face what o'clock it is. That is like a great many of
our churches, and I ask you to ask yourselves whether it is like you
or not--a dark lantern, a most imperfectly illuminated dial, which
gives no guidance and no information to anybody.

This golden lampstand teaches us--

II. How this office is to be discharged.

Remember simply these two points. It stood, as I have already said,
on one side of the Altar of Incense which was central to everything.
It was daily tended by the priests, and fed with fresh oil. Hence we
may derive some important practical lessons.

To begin with, we note that our light is a derived light, and
therefore can only be kept bright when we keep close to the source
from whence it is derived.

'That was the true Light, which coming into the world lighteth every
man'--there is the source of all illumination, in Jesus Christ
Himself. He alone is _the_ Light, and as for all others we must
say of them what was said of His great forerunner, 'Not that light,
but sent to bear witness of that light'; and again, 'he was a light
kindled,' and therefore 'shining,' and so his shining was but 'for a
season.' But Jesus is for ever the light of the world, and all our
illumination comes from Him. As Paul says, 'Now are ye light in the
Lord,' therefore only in the measure in which we are 'in the Lord,'
shall we be light. Keep near to Him and you will shine; break the
connection with Him, and you are darkness, darkness for yourselves,
and darkness for the world. Switch off, and the light is darkness.

Change the metaphor, and instead of saying 'derived light' say
'reflected light.' _There_ is a pane of glass in a cottage,
miles away across the moor. It was invisible a moment ago, and
suddenly it gleams like a diamond. Why? The sun has struck it; and
in a moment after it will be invisible again. As long as Jesus
Christ is shining on my heart, so long, and not a moment longer,
shall I give forth the light that will illumine the world.
Astronomers have a contrivance by which they can keep a photographic
film on which they are seeking to get the image of a star, moving
along with the movement of the heavens, so that on the same spot the
star shall always shine. We have to keep ourselves steady beneath
the white beam from Jesus, and then we, too, shall be 'light in the

Our light is fed light. Daily came the priest, daily the oil that
had been exhausted by shining was replenished. We all know what that
oil means and is; the Divine Spirit which comes into every heart
which is open by faith in Christ, and which abides in every heart
where there are desire, obedience, and the following of Him; which
can be quenched by my sin, by my negligence, by my ceasing to wish
it, by my not using its gifts when I have them; which can be grieved
by my inconsistencies, and by the spots of darkness that so often
take up more of the sphere of my life than the spots of
illumination. But we can have as much of that oil of the Divine
Spirit, the 'unction from the Holy One,' as we desire, and expect,
and use. And unless we have, dear brethren, there is no shining for
us. This generation in its abundant activities tends to a
Christianity which has more spindles than power, which is more
surface than depth, which is so anxious to do service that it
forgets the preliminary of all right service, patient, solitary,
silent communion with God. Suffer the word of exhortation--let
shining be second, let replenishing with the oil be first. First the
Altar of Incense, then the Candlestick.

III. This golden lampstand tells us of the fatal effect of
neglecting the Church's and the individual's duty.

Where is the seven-branched candlestick of the second Temple? No one
knows. Possibly, according to one statement, it lies at the bottom
of the Mediterranean. Certainly we know that it is pictured on that
sad panel in the conqueror's arch at Rome, and that it became a
trophy of the insolent victor. It disappeared, and the Israel whom
it vainly endeavoured through the centuries to stir to a
consciousness of its vocation, has never since had a gleam of light
to ray out into the world. Where are the seven candlesticks, which
made a blessed unity because Christ walked in their midst? Where are
the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Thyatira, and the
rest? Where they stood the mosque is reared, and from its minaret
day by day rings out--not the proclamation of the Name, but--'There
is no God but God, and Mahomet is His Prophet.' The Pharos that
ought to have shone out over stormy seas has been seized by
wreckers, and its light is blinded, and false lights lure the
mariner to the shoals and to shipwreck.

'Take heed lest He also spare not thee.' O brethren! is it not a
bitter irony to call _us_ 'lights of the world'? Let us penitently
recognise the inconsistencies of our lives, and the reticence of our
speech. Let us not lose sight of the high ideal, that we may the more
penitently recognise the miserable falling short of our reality. And
let us be thankful that _the_ Priest is tending the lamps. 'He
will not quench the smoking wick,' but will replenish it with oil, and
fan the dying flame. Only let us not resist His ministrations, which
are always gentle, even when He removes the charred blacknesses that
hinder our being what we should be, and may be, if we will--lights
of the world. 'Arise! shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of
the Lord is risen upon thee.'


Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord, upon his
two shoulders, for a memorial.... And Aaron shall bear
the names of the Children of Israel in the breastplate
of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the
Holy Place.'--EXODUS xxviii. 12,29.

Every part of the elaborately prescribed dress of the high priest
was significant. But the significance of the whole was concentrated
in the inscription upon his mitre, 'Holiness to the Lord,' and in
those others upon his breastplate and his shoulder.

The breastplate was composed of folded cloth, in which were lodged
twelve precious stones, in four rows of three, each stone containing
the name of one of the tribes. It was held in position by the ephod,
which consisted of another piece of cloth, with a back and front
part, which were united into one on the shoulders. On each shoulder
it was clasped by an onyx stone bearing the names of six of the
tribes. Thus twice, on the shoulders, the seat of power, and on the
heart, the organ of thought and of love, Aaron, entering into the
presence of the Most High, bore 'the names of the tribes for a
memorial continually.'

Now, I think we shall not be indulging in the very dangerous
amusement of unduly spiritualising the externalities of that old law
if we see here, in these two things, some very important lessons.

I. The first one that I would suggest to you is--here we have the
expression of the great truth of representation of the people by the

The names of the tribes laid upon Aaron's heart and on his shoulders
indicated the significance of his office--that he represented Israel
before God, as truly as he represented God to Israel. For the moment
the personality of the official was altogether melted away and
absorbed in the sanctity of his function, and he stood before God as
the individualised nation. Aaron was Israel, and Israel was Aaron,
for the purposes of worship. And that was indicated by the fact that
here, on the shoulders from which, according to an obvious symbol,
all acts of power emanate, and on the heart from which, according to
most natural metaphor, all the outgoings of the personal life
proceed, were written the names of the tribes. That meant, 'This man
standing here is the Israel of God, the concentrated nation.'

The same thought works the other way. The nation is the diffused
priest, and all its individual components are consecrated to God.
All this was external ceremonial, with no real spiritual fact at the
back of it. But it pointed onwards to something that is not
ceremonial. It pointed to this, that the true priest must, in like
manner, gather up into himself, and in a very profound sense be, the
people for whom he is the priest; and that they, in their turn, by
the action of their own minds and hearts and wills, must consent to
and recognise that representative relation, which comes to the
solemn height of identification in Christ's relation to His people.
'I am the Vine, ye are the branches,' says He, and also, 'That they
all may be one in us as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee.' So
Paul says, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.' 'The life
which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God,'

So Christ gathers us all, if we will let Him, into Himself; and our
lives may be hid with Him--in a fashion that is more than mere
external and formal representation, or as people have a member of
Parliament to represent them in the councils of the nation--even in
a true union with Him in whom is the life of all of us, if we live
in any real sense. Aaron bore the names of the tribes on shoulder
and heart, and Israel was Aaron, and Aaron was Israel.

II. Further, we see here, in these eloquent symbols, the true
significance of intercession.

Now, that is a word and a thought which has been wofully limited and
made shallow and superficial by the unfortunate confining of the
expression, in our ordinary language, to a mere action by speech.
Intercession is supposed to be verbal asking for some good to be
bestowed on, or some evil to be averted from, some one in whom we
are interested. But the Old Testament notion of the priest's
intercession, and the New Testament use of the word which we so
render, go far beyond any verbal utterances, and reach to the very
heart of things. Intercession, in the true sense of the word, means
the doing of any act whatsoever before God for His people by Jesus
Christ. Whensoever, as in the presence of God, He brings to God
anything which is His, that is intercession. He undertakes for them,
not by words only, though His mighty word is, 'I will that they whom
Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am,' but by acts which are
more than even the words of the Incarnate Word.

If we take these two inscriptions upon which I am now commenting, we
shall get, I think, what covers the whole ground of the intercession
on which Christians are to repose their souls. For, with regard to
the one of them, we read that the high priest's breastplate was
named 'the breastplate of judgment'; and what that means is
explained by the last words of the verse following that from which
my text is taken: 'Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of
Israel upon his heart before the Lord.' Judgment means a judicial
sentence; in this case a judicial sentence of acquittal. And that
Aaron stood before God in the Holy Place, ministering with this
breastplate upon his heart, is explained by the writer of these
regulations to mean that he carried there the visible manifestation
of Israel's acquittal, based upon his own sacrificial function. Now,
put that into plain English, and it is just this--Jesus Christ's
sacrifice ensures, for all those whose names are written on these
gems on His heart, their acquittal in the judgment of Heaven. Or, in
other words, the first step in the intercession of our great High
Priest is the presenting before God for ever and ever that great
fact that He, the Sinless, has died for the love of sinful men, and
thereby has secured that the judgment of Heaven on them shall now be
'no condemnation.' Brethren, there is the root of all our hope in
Christ, and of all that Christ is to individuals and to society--the
assurance that the breastplate of judgment is on His heart, as a
sign that all who trust Him are acquitted by the tribunal of Heaven.

The other side of this great continual act of intercession is set
forth by the other symbol--the names written on the shoulders, the
seat of power. There is a beautiful parallel, which yet at first
sight does not seem to be one, to the thought that lies here, in the
Book of the Prophet Isaiah, where, addressing the restored and
perfected Israel, he says, speaking in the person of Jehovah: 'I
have graven thee upon the palms of My hands.' That has precisely the
same meaning that I take to be conveyed by this symbol in the text.
The names of the tribes are written on His shoulders; and not until
that arm is wearied or palsied, not till that strong hand forgets
its cunning, will our defence fail. If our names are thus written on
the seat of power, that means that all the divine authority and
omnipotence which Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of the Father,
wields in His state of royal glory, are exercised on behalf of, or
at all events on the side of, those whose names He thus bears upon
His shoulders. That is the guarantee for each of us that our hands
shall be made strong, according to the ancient prophetic blessing,
'by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.' Just as a father or a
mother will take their child's little tremulous hand in theirs and
hold it, that it may be strengthened for some small task beyond its
unbacked, uninvigorated power; so Jesus Christ will give us strength
within, and also will order the march of His Providence and send the
gift of His Spirit, for the succour and the strengthening of all
whose names are written on His ephod. He has gone within the veil.
He has left us heavy tasks, but our names are on His shoulders, and
we 'can do all things in Christ who strengthened us.'

III. Still further, this symbol suggests to us the depth and reality
of Christ's sympathy.

The heart is, in our language, the seat of love. It is not so in the
Old Testament. Affection is generally allocated to another part of
the frame; but here the heart stands for the organ of care, of
thought, of interest. For, according to the Old Testament view of
the relation between man's body and man's soul, the very seat and
centre of the individual life is in the heart. I suppose that was
because it was known that, somehow or other, the blood came thence.
Be that as it may, the thought is clear throughout all the Old
Testament that the heart is the man, and the man is the heart. And
so, if Jesus bears our names upon His heart, that does not express
merely representation nor merely intercession, but it expresses also
personal regard, individualising knowledge. For Aaron wore not one
great jewel with 'Israel' written on it, but twelve little ones,
with 'Dan,' 'Benjamin,' and 'Ephraim,' and all the rest of them,
each on his own gem.

So we can say, 'Such a High Priest became us, who could have
compassion upon the ignorant, and upon them that are out of the
way'; and we can fall back on that old-fashioned but inexhaustible
source of consolation and strength: 'In all their affliction He was
afflicted'; and though the noise of the tempests which toss us can
scarcely be supposed to penetrate into the veiled place where He
dwells on high, yet we may be sure--and take all the peace and
consolation and encouragement out of it that it is meant to give us--that
'we have not a High Priest that cannot be touched with a
feeling of our infirmities,' but that Himself, having known
miseries, 'is able to succour them that are tempted.' Our names are
on Christ's heart.

IV. Then, lastly, we have here a suggestion of how precious to Aaron
Israel is.

Jewels were chosen to symbolise the tribes. Bits of tin, potsherds,
or anything else that one could have scratched letters upon, would
have done quite as well. But 'the precious things of the everlasting
mountains' were chosen to bear the dear names. 'The Lord's portion
is His people'; and precious in the eyes of Christ are the souls for
whom He has given so much. They are not only precious, but lustrous,
flashing back the light in various colours indeed, according to
their various laws of crystallisation, but all receptive of it and
all reflective of it. I said that the names on the breastplate of
judgment expressed the acquittal and acceptance of Israel. But does
Christ's work for us stop with simple acquittal? Oh no! 'Whom He
justified them He also glorified,' And if our souls are 'bound in
the bundle of life,' and our names are written on the heart of the
Christ, be sure that mere forgiveness and acquittal is the least of
the blessings which He intends to give, and that He will not be
satisfied until in all our nature we receive and flash back the
light of His own glory.

It is very significant in this aspect that the names of the twelve
tribes are described as being written on the precious stones which
make the walls of the New Jerusalem. Thus borne on Christ's heart
whilst He is within the veil and we are in the outer courts, we may
hope to be carried by His sustaining and perfecting hand into the
glories, and be made participant of the glories. Let us see to it
that we write His name on our hearts, on their cares, their thought,
their love, and on our hands, on their toiling and their possessing;
and then, God helping us, and Christ dwelling in us, we shall come
to the blessed state of those who serve Him, and bear His name
flaming conspicuous for ever on their foreheads.


'Thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon
it ... HOLINESS TO THE LORD.'--EXODUS xxviii. 36.

'In that day there shall be upon the bells of the horses,

'His name shall be in their foreheads.'--REV. xxii. 4.

You will have perceived my purpose in putting these three widely
separated texts together. They all speak of inscriptions, and they
are all obviously connected with each other. The first of them comes
from the ancient times of the institution of the ceremonial ritual,
and describes a part of the high priest's official dress. In his
mitre was a thin plate of gold on which was written, 'Holiness to
the Lord.' The second of them comes from almost the last portion
recorded of the history of Israel in the Old Testament, and is from
the words of the great Prophet of the Restoration--his ideal
presentation of the Messianic period, in which he recognises as one
feature, that the inscription on the mitre of the high priest shall
be written on 'the bells of the horses.' And the last of them is
from the closing vision of the celestial kingdom, the heavenly and
perfected form of the Christian Church. John, probably remembering
the high priest and his mitre, with its inscription upon the
forehead, says: 'His servants shall do Him priestly service'--for
that is the meaning of the word inadequately translated 'serve Him'--'and
see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads.'

These three things, then--the high priest's mitre, the horses'
bells, the foreheads of the perfected saints--present three aspects
of the Christian thought of holiness. Take them one by one.

I. The high priest's mitre.

The high priest was the official representative of the nation. He
stood before God as the embodied and personified Israel. For the
purposes of worship Israel was the high priest, and the high priest
was Israel. And so, on his forehead, not to distinguish him from the
rest of the people, but to include all the people in his
consecration, shone a golden plate with the motto, 'Holiness to the
Lord.' So, at the very beginning of Jewish ritual there stands a
protest against all notions that make 'saint' the designation of any
abnormal or exceptional sanctity, and confine the name to the
members of any selected aristocracy of devoutness and goodness. All
Christian men, _ex officio_, by the very fact of their Christianity,
are saints, in the true sense of the word. And the representative of
the whole of Israel stood there before God, with this inscription
blazing on his forehead, as a witness that, whatsoever holiness may
be, it belongs to every member of the true Israel.

And what is it? It is a very unfortunate thing--indicating
superficiality of thought--that the modern popular notion of
'holiness' identifies it with purity, righteousness, moral
perfection. Now that idea _is_ in it, but is not the whole of
it. For, not to spend time upon mere remarks on words, the meaning
of the word thus rendered is in Hebrew, as well as in Greek and in
our own English, one and the same. The root-meaning is 'separated,'
'set apart,' and the word expresses primarily, not moral character,
but relation to God. That makes all the difference; and it
incalculably deepens the conception, as well as puts us on the right
track for understanding the only possible means by which there can
ever be realised that moral perfection and excellence which has
unfortunately monopolised the meaning of the word in most people's
minds. The first thought is 'set apart to God.' That is holiness, in
its root and germ.

And how can we be set apart for God? You may devote a dead thing for
certain uses easily enough. How can a man be separated and laid

Well, there is only one way, brethren, and that is by self-
surrender. 'Yield yourselves to God' is but the other side, or,
rather, the practical shape, of the Old and the New Testament
doctrine of holiness. A man becomes God's when he says, 'Lord, take
me and mould me, and fill me and cleanse me, and do with me what
Thou wilt.' In that self-surrender, which is the tap-root of all
holiness, the first and foremost thing to be offered is that most
obstinate of all, the will that is in us. And when we yield our
wills in submission both to commandments and providences, both to
gifts and to withdrawals, both to gains and to losses, both to joys
and to sorrows, then we begin to write upon our foreheads 'Holiness
to the Lord.' And when we go on to yield our hearts to Him, by
enshrining Him sole and sovereign in their innermost chamber, and
turning to Him the whole current of our lives and desires, and hopes
and confidences, which we are so apt to allow to run to waste and be
sucked up in the desert sands of the world, then we write more of
that inscription. And when we fill our minds with joyful submission
to His truth, and occupy our thoughts with His mighty Name and His
great revelation, and carry Him with us in the hidden corners of our
consciousness, even whilst we are busy about daily work, then we add
further letters to it. And when the submissive will, and the devoted
heart, and the occupied thoughts are fully expressed in daily life
and its various external duties, then the writing is complete.
'Holiness to the Lord' is self-surrender of will and heart and mind
and everything. And that surrender is of the very essence of

What is a saint? Some man or woman that has practised unheard-of
austerities? Somebody that has lived an isolated and self-regarding
life in convent or monastery or desert? No! a man or woman in the
world who, moved by the mercies of God, yields self to God as 'a
living sacrifice.'

So the New Testament writers never hesitate to speak even of such
very imperfect Christians as were found in abundance in churches
like Corinth and Galatia as being all 'saints,' every man of them.
That is not because the writers were minimising their defects, or
idealising their persons, but because, if they are Christians at
all, they are saints; seeing that no man is a Christian who has not
been drawn by Christ's great sacrifice for him to yield himself a
sacrifice for Christ.

Of course that intrusive idea which has, in popular apprehension, so
swallowed up the notion of holiness--viz. that of perfection of
moral character or conduct--is included in this other, or rather is
developed from it. For the true way to conquer self is to surrender
self; and the more entire our giving up of ourselves, the more
certainly shall we receive ourselves back again from His hands. 'By
the mercies of God, I beseech you, yield yourselves living

II. I come to my next text--the horses' bells.

Zechariah has a vision of the ideal Messianic times, and, of course,
as must necessarily be the case, his picture is painted with colours
laid upon his palette by his experience, and he depicts that distant
future in the guise suggested to him by what he saw around him. So
we have to disentangle from his words the sentiment which he
expresses, and to recognise the symbolic way in which he puts it.
His thought is this,--the inscription on the high priest's mitre
will be written on the bells which ornament the harness of the
horses, which in Israel were never used as with us, but only either
for war or for pomp and display, and the use of which was always
regarded with a certain kind of doubt and suspicion. Even these
shall be consecrated in that far-off day.

And then he goes on with variations on the same air, 'In that day
there shall be upon the bells of the horses, "Holiness unto the
Lord,"' and adds that 'the pots in the Lord's house'--the humble
vessels that were used for the most ordinary parts of the Temple
services--'shall be like the bowls before the altar,' into which the
sacred blood of the offerings was poured. The most external and
secular thing bearing upon religion shall be as sacred as the
sacredest. But that is not all. 'Yea! every pot in Jerusalem and in
Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts, and all they that
sacrifice shall come and take of them,' and put their offerings
therein. That is to say, the coarse pottery vessels that were in
every poverty-stricken house in the city shall be elevated to the
rank of the sacred vessels of the Temple. Domestic life with all its
secularities shall be hallowed. The kitchens of Jerusalem shall be
as truly places of worship as is the inner shrine of the Most High.

On the whole, the prophet's teaching is that, in the ideal state of
man upon earth, there will be an entire abolition of the distinction
between 'sacred' and 'secular'; a distinction that has wrought
infinite mischief in the world, and in the lives of Christian

Let me translate these words of our prophet into English
equivalents. Every cup and tumbler in a poor man's kitchen may be as
sacred as the communion chalice that passes from lip to lip with the
'blood of Jesus Christ' in it. Every common piece of service that we
do, down among the vulgarities and the secularities and the
meannesses of daily life, may be lifted up to stand upon precisely
the same level as the sacredest office that we undertake. The bells
of the horses may jingle to the same tune as the trumpets of the
priests sounded within the shrine, and on all, great and small, may
be written, 'Holiness to the Lord.'

But let us remember that that universally diffused sanctity will
need to have a centre of diffusion, else there will be no diffusion,
and that all life will become sacred when the man that lives it has
'Holiness to the Lord' written on his forehead, and not else. If
that be the inscription on the driver's heart, the horses that he
drives will have it written on their bells, but they will not have
it unless it be. Holy men make all things holy. 'To the pure all
things are pure,' but unto them that are unclean and disobedient
there is nothing pure. Hallow thyself, and all things are clean unto

III. And so I come to my third text--the perfected saints'

The connection between the first and the last of these texts is as
plain and close as between the first and the second. For John in his
closing vision gives emphasis to the priestly idea as designating in
its deepest relations the redeemed and perfected Christian Church.
Therefore he says, as I have already explained, 'His servants shall
do Him _priestly_ service, and His name shall be in their
foreheads.' The old official dress of the high priest comes into his
mind, and he paints the future, just as Zechariah did, under the
forms of the past, and sees before the throne the perfected saints,
each man of them with that inscription clear and conspicuous.

But there is an advance in his words which I think it is not
fanciful to note. It is only the _name_ that is written in the
perfected saint's forehead. Not the 'Holiness unto the Lord,' but
just the bare name. What does that mean? Well, it means the same as
your writing your name in one of your books does, or as when a man
puts his initials on the back of his oxen, or as the old practice of
branding the master's mark upon the slave did. It means absolute

But it means something more. The name is the manifested personality,
the revealed God, or, as we say in an abstract way, the character of
God. That Name is to be in the foreheads of His perfected people.
How does it come to be there? Read also the clause before the text--'His
servants shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads.'
That is to say, the perfected condition is not reached by surrender
only, but by assimilation; and that assimilation comes by contemplation.
The faces that are turned to Him, and behold Him, are smitten with the
light and shine, and those that look upon them see 'as it had been the
face of an angel,' as the Sanhedrim saw that of Stephen, when he beheld
the Son of Man 'standing at the right hand of God.'

My last text is but a picturesque way of saying what the writer of
it says in plain words when he declares, 'We shall be like Him, for
we shall see Him as He is.' The name is to be 'in their foreheads,'
where every eye can see it. Alas! alas! it is so hard for us to live
out our best selves, and to show to the world what is in us.
Cowardice, sheepishness, and a hundred other reasons prevent it. In
this poor imperfect state no emotion ever takes shape and visibility
without losing more or less of its beauty. But yonder the
obstructions to self-manifestation will be done away; and 'when He
shall be manifested, we also shall be manifested with Him in glory.'

'Then shall the righteous blaze forth like the sun in My heavenly
Father's Kingdom.' But the beginning of it all is 'Holiness to the
Lord' written on our hearts; and the end of that is the vision which
is impossible without holiness, and which leads on to the beholder's
perfect likeness to his Lord.


'Thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon.'
--EXODUS xxx. 1.

Ceremonies are embodied thoughts. Religious ceremonies are moulded
by, and seek to express, the worshipper's conception of his God, and
his own relation to Him; his aspirations and his need. Of late years
scholars have been busy studying the religions of the more backward
races, and explaining rude and repulsive rites by pointing to the
often profound and sometimes beautiful ideas underlying them. When
that process is applied to Australian and Fijian savages, it is
honoured as a new and important study; when we apply it to the
Mosaic Ritual it is pooh-poohed as 'foolish spiritualising.' Now, no
doubt, there has been a great deal of nonsense talked in regard to
this matter, and a great deal of ingenuity wasted in giving a
Christian meaning--or, may I say, a Christian twist?--to every pin
of the Tabernacle, and every detail of the ritual. Of course, to
exaggerate a truth is the surest way to discredit a truth, but the
truth remains true all the same, and underneath that elaborate
legislation, which makes such wearisome and profitless reading for
the most of us, in the Pentateuch, there lie, if we can only grasp
them, great thoughts and lessons that we shall all be the better for

To one item of these, this altar of incense, I call attention now,
because it is rich in suggestions, and leads us into very sacred
regions of the Christian life which are by no means so familiar to
many of us as they ought to be. Let me just for one moment state the
facts with which I wish to deal. The Jewish Tabernacle, and
subsequently the Temple, were arranged in three compartments: the
outermost court, which was accessible to all the people; the second,
which was trodden by the priests alone; and the third, where the
Shechinah dwelt in solitude, broken only once a year by the foot of
the High Priest. That second court we are concerned with now. There
are three pieces of ecclesiastical furniture in it: an altar in the
centre, flanked on either side by a great lampstand, and a table on
which were piled loaves. It is to that central piece of furniture
that I ask your attention now, and to the thoughts that underlie it,
and the lessons that it teaches.

I. This altar shows us what prayer is.

Suppose we had been in that court when in the morning or in the
evening the priest came with the glowing pan of coals from another
altar in the outer court, and laid it on this altar, and heaped upon
it the sticks of incense, we should have seen the curling, fragrant
wreaths ascending till 'the House was filled with smoke,' as a
prophet once saw it. We should not have wanted any interpreter to
tell us what that meant. What could that rising cloud of sweet

Book of the day: