1Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? 2And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand. 3And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him. 4And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men. 5And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. 7And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died. JUDGES I
So decidedly do the Scriptures intimate that a spiritual sense is contained within them, that most who revere the sacred oracles, are prepared to adroit that statement to a greater or less extent. The parables, the visions, some portions of the prophecies, and much of the book of Psalms are believed to have spiritual lessons chiefly in view, but the historical parts of the Sacred Volume are less freely acknowledged to contain heavenly wisdom within your bosom. Yet it is interesting to remember, that the first literal history contained in the Divine Volume, — namely the history of Abraham, is declared by the apostle Paul, to be allegorical ” For it is written,” said he, ” that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born the flesh : but he who was of the free woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory : for these are the two covenants : the one from Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” — Gal. iy. 22 — 26. It certainly seems not too much to conclude, that the apostle was led to select this early portion of the historical part of the Holy Word, and declare it to be a divine allegory, as, by a specimen to assure us, that the historical style, like every other style in the Word of God, is the medium of conveying to mankind those deep truths which are the lessons of Divine Wisdom. Besides this consideration, however, there are many others which lead to the same conclusion. That the Jewish nation was a typical as well as an historical one, is commonly admitted. “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly,” Paul said to the Romans, ” Neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh ; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly ; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” — Rom. ii. 28, 29. It is here stated, that he only, among the Jews, comes fully up to the divine appointment of that people, who in heart and spirit accepts those realities of which their laws and ceremonies were the symbols. Again, the journey of the Israelites to reach Caanaan, is commonly admitted to be a divinely arranged chart, of the changes through which the soul passes, in the journey of the regeneration. Canaan is an acknowledged type of heaven, and the interiors of the human soul, where that heavenly state resides, of which it is said, ” The kingdom of God is within you.” And from these general admissions, it will follow that both the difficulties and the foes which the Israelites met with on their journey, and the idolatrous tribes which had to be overcome in the land of Canaan, were also typical of the difficulties through which the Christian has to pass, and the spiritual foes, the evil and perverted principles, he must extirpate from the Canaan of the soul.
And, here we may remark, that if the sublime lessons winch unveil to us the early spiritual condition of mankind in pure allegory — such as the account of creation, the garden of Eden, the fall, and the whole of the early parts of the Scriptures, — excite our admiration, and prove, by their perfect wisdom, their divine origin ; how much more astonishing still, is that adorable Providence which we see conducting the affairs of the Jewish nation, so that from their earliest fathers down to their complete ruin, their history should be real and symbolical at the same time. Their kings, their priests, their prophets, were all real, and besides that, all typical : all outward events, yet all the types of inward principles. They were naturally useful for the Jewish nation ; and by their history in the Word, and its correspondences, they are spiritually useful for all nations who understand the Word, and for all ages. We may surely exclaim here, “Thou hast exalted thy Word above all thy name.”
With respect to the historical circumstances connected with our text, we may remark, Bezek was a city some seventeen miles from Shechem on the east, the capital of a small territory which had imposed a cruel and hateful rule over the petty kings around, and reduced them to abject misery. That these kings must have been very small chieftains is evident from the circumstances of Adoni-Bezek having maimed and enslaved seventy of them.
The name, Adon, means Lord, and Bezek may be interpreted, in or among the fetters. The Lord among the fetters very properly designates a monarch of the character described in our text, in every point of view, and affords the proper basis for the Divine lesson intended to be conveyed in the Holy Word. This king made head, as the general leader of the Canaanites and Perizzites, against the people of Israel. Judah and Simeon were the leaders on Israel’s side. The idolatrous nations were conquered with the loss of ten thousand men. The cruel tyrant was deprived of the extremities of his hands and feet, being treated as he had treated the numerous victims of his former wars. He was subsequently brought to Jerusalem, and there he died.
The history in its letter affords room for interesting and important moral reflections. It points to the retribution which certainly comes sooner or later to the wrong doer. The Most High rules among the kingdoms of men, and always in reality but often with amazing exactitude even in details, the sins of the wicked fall back upon themselves. History and private life both afford innumerable examples of the blows of guilty men being returned, with awful precision and increase, upon their own heads : — the tyrant of to-day becoming the slave of to-morrow ; the contriver of a snare, being caught in his own net ; and the oppressors of nations becoming the ruined captives, suffering alike from their pent up passions, and the scorn and execration of the world. The miserable king in our text, is an example and a type, of this retributive law of Providence. He had maimed and beggared others, and precisely the same lot became a portion for himself until he ended his mutilated life by a captive’s miserable death. Such is the illustration which even the letter of the Divine Word affords of a great practical truth illustrated in all the ways of Providence, and proclaimed by our Lord Himself, — ” With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Here, we may remark, appears an excellence of the doctrines of the New Church, of the highest value. The spiritual sense of the Word is not a denial of the letter, or a substitute for it. It is contained within it : it is the sap of the trees of the Lord : it is the soul of the body of the Word. Whatever lessons of virtue and use others can draw from the letter of the Bible, we can also draw. And, when they have exhausted with us their reflections on the outward history, we then, by the mercy of the Lord, in the dispensation He is opening in these latter days, can rise to the inexhaustible beauties of the of the spiritual sense. Having stood for awhile on the lowest step of the sacred ladder which leads to heaven, we can then say, as we say now, Come up higher, friend.
The region over which Adoni-Bezek reigned, might possibly have obtained its name Bezek (among the fetters) from the fetters which it had long forged for the surrounding countries, and under which it held them in bondage. Its cruel tyranny, as well as its name, is the expressive symbol of the slavery of sin. Fetters enchain the body; false principles enslave the soul. Truth alone makes man free. False doctrines, false views, false maxims, false customs, confine and enchain the spirit. They make a Bezek, a city of chains, in the soul.
All outward slaveries are but the effect of inward slaveries. False opinions are the foundations which sustain all the tyrannies both of governments, and of evil customs and evil habits. People are first led to suppose that wrong is right, or if not right, necessary, and then they adopt it, or submit to it. Hence the great importance of the struggle for the truth. Illuminate the mind, and false opinions disappear. The chains which fetter men are truly the chains of deluded thought, the chains of folly and falsehood. The dupe becomes the willing or submissive slave, to what he fancies must be right, because some one whose dictum he obeys, has assured him it is so. Oh, that men would use their own great powers honestly. Just as their divine Creator has given them eyes, which serve them truly, and upon which they may depend in their outward walks in life ; so has he given them spiritual eyes, powers of investigation and perception, upon which they may equally depend. To doubt it, is to doubt Him who has made us, and who is All-good and All- wise. Oh, that men would follow the teaching of that glorious Saviour who said, ” Let thine eye be single and thy whole body shall be full of light.” If the minds of men, unswayed by their own perversities, determined to investigate the truth, to act upon the truth, and no longer to be blind followers of the blind, how soon would they rise from the fetters which bind them to misery, up to the manhood, and the glorious liberty of the children of light.
False principles in relation to religion, are most potent to bind the soul. The most interior and deep-seated feelings of the heart being those which are intended to connect man with the Supreme, when they are misdirected, serve to crush him to the dust. The man who has been induced to believe that his God is a, cruel, partial, or revengeful Being, has all his own generous instincts fettered. His better part, better part, the germ of angelic and holiness within him, are fettered at the core. If he is taught that God is unjust, confounding the innocent with the guilty ; that He is regardless of interior character, and only respects those of a particular creed, name, or dogma, this tends to cramp his own noble aspirations of goodwill and charity, and either to strengthen the worse part of his nature, or to fret the better. Every false doctrine is a chain, and every constituent fallacy a link, to bind the seal to darkness.
Who can tell what harm has been done by false views of God, of faith, of love, of duty, of immortality ? Let inquisitions, wars for religion, crusades and massacres for religion, plagues arising from human folly, neglect and dirt, but attributed to God answer. Just as much as truth tends to elevate, so much does falsehood tend to depress.
If we suppose that God is selfish and arbitrary, the check upon our self-will, which exists when we contemplate the Deity as Sovereign Goodness, Sovereign Wisdom and Sovereign Order, in Divine Human Form, is not there ; and we easily become, or remain if we are naturally so, exacting and selfish too. Those whom we believe our God dislikes we readily condemn, and possibly, persecute. The better part of us is chained, the worse is at liberty. Even if we are told by those whom we suppose to know, that our life has really nothing to do with our preparation for heaven, it is only our faith ; that we cannot keep the commandments; and much more are we unable to love our neighbour as ourselves ; to return good for evil ; to prepare, by a life of love to God and love to man, for a world in which these loves reign for ever, and bless in all things; the best resolves are checked and weakened ; efforts which might result in an earnest Christian life, are blighted in the bud ; and the average of mankind in the professing religious world are kept in the low state of virtue, and true peace and blessedness, in which they confessedly remain. Too many dwell in Bezek, the land of chains.
In the irreligious world, too, how numerous are the chains which fetter the spirit to what is wrong. The persuasion that we are acting according to nature, when we are only indulging our vices ; the idea that worldly enjoyment is everything ; that religion is a painful deprivation ; the supposition that we cannot succeed in life, except by tricks, or overweening devotion to the body and to wealth ; the denial of God, the denial of Revelation, the denial of man’s ability to will and to act, except as he is impelled by circumstances ; all these act as chains to fetter the nobler utterances of conscience, and keep multitudes dwelling in Bezek who often sigh for better things.
That the sinner is a slave, is not only the dictate of Revelation, ” Whoso committeth sin is the servant,” (or, as it might be better rendered), the slave of sin ; but he who strives to break his captivity will speedily find it to be true. Habit has been weaving round him invisible meshes, which, however, he will feel restraining and restricting him in every direction, when he seeks to quit the enchanted ground, on which his ruin was being completed. How strikingly is this sometimes seen in the drunkard. He has felt the galling slavery of his vice. The reproaches of conscience, the loss of comfort at home, the evident diminution of his children’s respect, the loss of character, of means, of health, blow after blow lacerating him in mind and in body, make plain to him how galling is the slavery under which he exists. He vows he will break his fetters. He determines thenceforward to become another man. But soon his habits make him uneasy. He yearns after the missed cup at the accustomed time. The appetite increases. Inclination whispers, he can indulge a little, without going to excess ; he can surely do as other people do ; he perhaps has done wrong in changing too suddenly ; possibly his health will suffer by the change ; could not he defer the alteration for a short time, and enjoy himself this once ? Appetite comes to the reinforcement of inclination, and the poor captive is led back to his slavery once more, and finds how true those divine words are — ” Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see, that it be an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord of Hosts.” — Jer. ii. 19.
The sinner is a slave; he dwells in Bezek, the land of chains. There is only one way of escape, to cry to the Lord Jesus the Saviour, the Redeemer of Israel, for strength, and He will give deliverance, as He overthrew the Lord of Bezek by the instrumentality of Judah and Simeon.
And who is there that has felt the sad weight of evil, the wretchedness it engenders here, and the deeper misery to which it leads, does not respond in his inmost heart to the sigh of real freedom? —
” Where is the slave so lowly,
Confined by chains unholy.
Who could he burst
His chains at firsts
Would pine beneath them slowly?”
We have considered the fetters which are represented by Bezek, let us now fix our attention for a time upon the Lord of Bezek. He is the representative of self-love. This principle, in its fallen state, is the terrible centre of all evil, of all slavery, and the secret origin of all falsehood. Self-love it is that forms the hidden soul for all wrongdoing. Why does the dishonest tradesman overreach in his transactions the man whom he should serve justly? Because he loves himself so much, that he prefers his own slightest gain, to the other’s just rights. Why does the highwayman go out to plunder the passing traveller, and take what, perhaps, is the hard-earned support of his family and himself? Undoubtedly, because the highwayman loves his own appetites so well, that, in comparison, the other’s just subsistence or comforts, are as nothing. Why does the reckless speculator, for the least chance of enriching himself, tempt by misrepresentations, by highly-coloured and positively false descriptions, by hollow and urgent persuasions, and, strive to obtain, as the means of prosecuting his daring and unwarranted schemes, the substantial support of probably thousands of families ? Why, but because he prefers himself to all those families, and all their common interests combined. Why does the ambitious tyrant, thirsting for conquest, and yearning to have the homage of a territory, send his armies to seize, to slaughter, and to plunder ; involving hundreds of thousands in desolation and death, combining all those myriad crimes and curses, whose name is War? It must be, that he loves himself more than the well-being, the interests, and the lives of millions.
And God forbids these crimes, and sinners know it. Why then do they, and defy the Will and the Wisdom of the Most High ? Undoubtedly, because they prefer their own will, their own judgment, and themselves, to God. Self, self, self is the fountain of all evils ; the idol which is worshipped as the central object of the evil soul ; the Lord of Bezek. And self is dark, is hideous, savage ; feeds on the empty pleasures of sense, creeps near the earth, and though it hides its horrid nature as much as possible under a fair profession, its beauty is only the skin-deep covering of malignity. Every one despises self in another. Every one feels conscious that his own selfhood would be despised as soon as seen. It is a serpent that reigns in the inner hell of an unregenerate heart. It is Lord in Bezek. Hence the selfishness of evil men, and evil spirits, taken together, is that serpent whose the Lord Jesus came to bruise : ” That old serpent, called the Devil; evil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” — Rev. xii. 9. What a picture is this! but it is true. The wise ancients knew that selfhood was a serpent, and they called it so, and made representations of it in this character. Their stupid descendants worshipped these very forms as deities in Egypt, in India, in China, and we shudder with disgust when we read of such prostration. But every worshipper of himself adores an idol within, far more insatiable, malignant, and horrid than any serpent that ever lived. He is there within us, with sub-infernals for his court There is Pride continually making his haughty exactions, and craving incessant homage. There is Envy gnawing himself with pain, at all excellence in others. There is Passion, burning with impatience, insisting upon having instant gratification, or instant destruction. There is Malignity, preparing constant poison for the objects of its inward hate. There is Fretfulness, ever bewailing itself, and weeping wormwood to embitter every half hour of human life. Anxiety is there, ever foreboding pain, misery and loss; and Revenge and Remorse are there, the first burning for fresh victims, and the latter, howling over those who have already fallen, and dreading the judgment to come. A whole tribe of polluted pleasures are there, which feed upon their own lives, and scatter dismay and death around.
Such is the court, say rather, the den of self-love. It is a devil in the form of a serpent, and this monster we obey and inwardly worship, so long as we continue in evil. And so long as he remains enthroned there, no real advance in true religion can be made. Hence the Lord says, ” If any man will come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF, and take up his cross, and follow me.” We must make war upon the Lord of Bezek, by the command and in the strength of heaven. Until he is dethroned, there is no security, and no peace, in our Canaan.
But there is a curious particular mentioned in our text. Adoni-Bezek said: “Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table.” Of course this reveals a very cruel proceeding, but it is chiefly interesting to us in its representative character. A king in the spiritual sense, signifies a ruling principle. The number seven, or its compounds, here seventy, corresponds to what is complete and holy. Hence it is very commonly used in the sacred Scripture, where in such cases as the seven days of the week, the clean beasts taken by sevens, the seven sprinklings of the leper, the seven washings of Naaman, the seven spirits of God, the seven stars, the seven churches, the representation of that number, manifestly appears. In the Hebrew language, the same word which signifies seven, signifies also, perfect. The seventy kings, then, under the table, represent all the holy truths which have been received into the mind since infancy, and are, when Adoni-Bezek reigns, dejected, powerless, and despised. The seventy disciples, whom the Lord sent out, have a similar signification. They are said to be under the table because the natural understanding, furnished with instructions, is like a table supplied with food. To be under the table, is to be only in the memory, among things little thought of and despised The portrait drawn is the state of the irreligious man, and of the unregenerated portion of the soul, in a mind yet desirous of being brought into the harmony of heaven. It is the abode of a tyrant, where luckless captives are maimed, helpless, and down-trodden. Seventy kings lie in miserable mutilation under the table. It is a den of thieves. All that is holy is sunk and crushed there. My beloved hearers, how is it with you ? From infancy, through childhood, many royal principles of heavenly truths have been taught you, and commissioned from the King of kings to rule in various departments of the mind, and bring into heavenly order. Are they reigning, or are they suffering? If self-love is your master passion, they will be dethroned and captive. All those sacred messengers of heaven, introduced by a good mother’s early hymns, by a virtuous father’s counsels, by the lessons of worthy friends and teachers, by faithful preachers, by your own readings of the Divine Word, in earlier, better days, all lie captive, and a vile monster reigns, terrible and desolating to you, abhorred of angels and good men, making around him, a little hell. O wrestle with these ” principalities and powers,” as the apostle calls them, ”these spiritual wickednesses in high places.” Range yourselves under the banner of Him, the adorable Conqueror of death and hell, who alsone can give the power to take this strong man’s palace, and spoil his goods, for He is stronger than he.
But it had been the cruel practice of Adoni-Bezek to cut off thumbs and great toes of his captives. Let us inquire what this strange conduct imports.
All the parts of the human body are correspondences of principles in the soul ; and are so used in the sacred Scriptures. The heart, the eyes, the head, the reins, are used manifestly to correspond to mental principles, and so are the arms, hands, fingers, and feet.
The arms, are the extremities which proceed from the breast, they denote the powers of affection and thought which flow from love to our neighbour, and the truth connected with that love. When we seek to advance our neighbour in real good and happiness, it is helping him with the right arm and hand. When we endeavour to assist him in intelligence, and lead him to higher views, we are assisting him with the left arm and hand.
The powers of the Divine Being himself are thus described : “Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, upon the son of man whom Thou hast made strong for thyself.” — Ps. lxxx. 17. The man of Thy right hand is the man who is influenced by the power of love. ” If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea ; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” — Ps. cxxxix. 9, 10. However far we may be led into the turmoil of earthly thought, of care, and trouble, the powers of the Divine Love and Wisdom, the two hands of Deity, will sustain and preserve us.
The finger of God means the Divine Power applied to some particular circumstance. Hence the Lord said : ”If I by the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” — Luke xi. 20.
The hands of man are equally correspondences in the Word. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord ? or who shall stand in His holy place ? ” He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart ; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” — Ps. xxiv. 4. To have clean hands, is to have the powers of the mind directed by goodness and truth. The Lord uttered a precept, strange in sound, but important in spirit, when he said, “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off.” — Mark ix. 43. Its import is, if the power of the mind has been perverted by evil, reject such power, cast it from thee.
To be delivered out of the power of any one, is constantly, both in scriptural and common language, called, being delivered out of their hand. ” Deliver me, my O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.” — Ps. lxxi. 4.
The feet are the lowest portion of the body, the extremities of the members which issue from the trunk of the human form. Upon them the body rests, and by their means it progresses. They represent the practical powers of life. The aspirations of the mind in daily duty. Upon these the mind rests ; upon these it advances. There is no progression by contemplation, it is by act. The right principles we look at, do not improve us, but those we do.
The powers of life, in the practice of daily duty, as the feet of the spiritual man, constantly meet us in the Word. ” Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord : for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.” — Ps. xxv. 15. ” He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” — Ps. xl. 2. Where it is manifest that to establish the life in accordance with divine truth, is to place the feet upon a rock. Again : ” Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about ” ” The iniquity of my heels is the evil which tempts us in our daily practices. Many, alas! have fancied that religion has nothing to do with daily life. They admit that the eyes, and perhaps the heart, have something to do with it, but not the feet. How different, from the practical life which the Word really inculcates, and which the New Jerusalem proclaims and restores. ” Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem” (Ps. cxxii. 2), is the language of the true believer. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy feet to be moved : He that keepeth thee will not slumber.” — Ps. cxxi. 2, 3. ” Return unto thy rest, O soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” — Ps. cxvi. 7 — 9. This walking religion, is the only real religion, be assured, my beloved hearers. All intention, all fancy, all talk, all promises of what you will sometimes be are vain, illusory, and fleeting as a dream, until they are fixed in a virtuous daily life. We have not anything strained and extraordinary to perform, to live the life of true religion ; have, in our usual avocation, but to ” do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God,” but we are sunned in the smile, and strengthened by the power of the King of heaven. To do each act, as our duty presents it, in the spirit of love and light, seems a little thing ; but ” he that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much : and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” — Luke xvi. 10.
The whole effort of real religion is to spread itself over our daily life — to do the will of God in each act. The grand effort irreligion, is to oppose this daily dedication of ourselves to right, to faith, and to love. If it can nullify our virtue practically, and make what we know of none effect now, it is little concerned about the future. One evil done, outweighs a thousand virtuous acts, only intended. Evil cares very little for religious truths in the memory, so that itself reigns in the heart and in the life. This is precisely what is represented by the kings under the table having the thumbs and great toes cut off. They represent truths shorn of their effect in act, — truths maimed and mutilated, which perform nothing, but remain hidden and depressed until they die. They are heavenly things known, but not done, and therefore have no blessing.
It was, no doubt, in reference to this important lesson, that the consecration of Aaron and his sons, it was directed to take blood of a ram and “put it upon the tip of of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of the right foot.” — Ex. xxix. 20. And when Christians devote themselves to become spiritual priests, to offer up living sacrifices to Him who is God and the Lamb, we must ever apply the living blood of Divine Wisdom to the very extremes of the soul. The tip of the ear must be touched with this blood to denote the complete and actual obedience with which we hearken to divine commands, the thumb of the right hand to show that will seek our neighbour’s good by every effort of benevolent kindness, and the great toe of the right foot to intimate this in the fullest measure, we will act justly, in our daily avocation. Thus we become actual, not theoretical, servants of Him who ministers to all.
In the cleansing of the leper, the blood of the offering to be ” put upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon great toe of his right foot.” And, afterwards, “The priest shall pour of the oil into the palm of his own left hand : and the priest shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the Lord : and the priest shall put of the oil that is in his hand, upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot ” — Lev. 25—28. When the leper of sin is to be cleansed, it can only be done by applying the truth, the living blood of the Lamb, to his absolute acts. He must actually obey, actually operate deeds of kindness, actually do unto others what he would have them do to him, and if he has done this first from truth, he will soon be able to do it from the soft meekness of heavenly love. First do it with blood, and then with oil ; first from duty, then from delight.
When Adoni-Bezek was taken, he was deprived of thumbs and great toes, and rendered helpless, as he had rend others. And, now we are prepared to see one of the most essential truths connected with man’s regenerate life, — the mode which man’s character can be changed, consistent with the laws of the soul. After the vileness of selfish opposition to God has become revealed to us, in the light of heaven, in the fervour of our first love, we would, if we were able, take a scalping-knife and cut it completely out of our being. But it is not possible. Evil is so interwoven with our spiritual organization, that were it at once to be all eradicated, the whole man would be gone. ” We are full of wounds, and bruises and putrefying sores.” The Lord alone can alter the interiors, and does so with a merciful and patient hand. ” He does not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed, but He brings forth judgment unto truth.” — Isa. xlii. 3. He said of the inhabitants of earthly Canaan, “By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until they be increased and inherit the land.” — Ex. xxiii. 30. This is a necessity of our nature, and cannot be departed from. Sight may be given quickly, but changed affections can only be imparted slowly. The structure of character, which is to last for ever, can only be obtained by steady perseverance in the right. But, if we cannot destroy, or have destroyed (for the Lord is the
great worker in this), selfishness, and all its attendant evils at once, what can be done ? This can be done ; it can be rendered powerless in act : and this is our province and our duty. Resist evil in act, resist it in word. Take care that no selfish act, to militate against our neighbour’s good, be done. Take care that no evil operate in our ordinary walk. This we can do. We cannot, for a time, avoid the promptings to wrong ; the old man will weigh upon us, and desire to have the dominion still. But we must steadily resist him, in act. This is to cut off the thumbs and great toes of Adoni-Bezek. We must not give him an inch of influence, in practice. It is not that which cometh into a man which defileth him, but that which goeth out. Here, then, we must resist, and here, by the power of the Lord Jesus, we can. The commandments of the Lord are nearly all negative ; they tell us what not to do : because our grand safety first lies in shunning evil, in act. Cease to do evil, learn to do well. “This is the love of God, if ye keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.” — 1 John v. 3. ” Blessed are they that keep his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” — Rev. xxii. 14.
This, then, is the spiritual import of cutting off the extremities of this wicked lord of fetters. O may it be deeply impressed upon us all. Let us, my beloved brethren, deny self, conquer self, abolish self, in act, and thus co-operate with our Lord, who will fight for us and conquer it within, and reveal within us all the peace of sin subdued and heaven revealed.
We are finally informed, ” They brought him (Adoni-Bezek) to Jerusalem, and there he died.”
Jemsalem, as you are aware, is the emblem of the Church. The Church, on a grand scale, consists of all those who in mind, heart| and life, acknowledge the Lord, and live according to His Divine will. The apostle calls it the heavenly Jerusalem. “ Ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.” — Heb. xii. 22. One mind which has raised its love as a mountain from which it adores the Lord, and surrounded itself with the doctrines of divine truth for a wall of defence and a city in which it dwells, has come to the heavenly Jerusalem. There it rests as in an impregnable city, and has intercourse with angels. It has become itself angelic. It thinks as angels think. It loves as angels love. In its atmosphere, selfishness cannot breathe, cannot live. When we come to Jerusalem, Adoni-Bezek dies. This is the land of love, of disinterestedness, of purity. The Lord it owns is He who is love itself, and ministers to the whole universe. The law this great country is, ” Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things shall be added unto you.” “ Give and it shall be given unto you ; good measure, pressed down, running over, shall men give into your bosoms.”
” To Jesus be praise without end,
For glories revealed in His word ;
We see the new city descend,
Adorned as a bride for her Lord.
” Here nothing can enter unclean;
No evil can breathe in the air :
No gloom of affliction is seen ;
No shadow of darkness is there.”
Before quitting this interesting subject, let us notice leaders of the Israelites, Judah and Simeon. “The children of Israel asked the Lord, saying. Who shall go up for us the Canaanites first, to fight against them ? And the Judah shall go up : behold, I have delivered the land into his hand. And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.”
The sons of Israel were representative, like everything under the law. Hence each name was divinely given, and is constantly employed with exact discrimination. Their births are related to shadow forth the order in which holy principles are bom in the soul. The first son was Reuben, whose name signifies, he hath seen. The second was Simeon, which term in Hebrew means, he hath heard. The third was Levi, the word for conjunction ; and the fourth was Judah, which imports, praise Jehovah. This is the very order in which holy things are produced in the soul when we are returning to God. First we see what is right, then we hearken to, that is, obey it ; we next determine to conjoin faith and works together always, and then we have born within us that grateful love to the Lord which impels us to bless and praise Him for all His mercies. Love to the Lord, therefore, is Judah, and obedience to him is Simeon. The Canaanites and Perizzites represent evils and false principles in general.
To overcome the opposition of impiety and error, then, and especially to subdue self-love in the soul, it was not without meaning that Judah was selected to lead, with Simeon for his coadjutor. How can self-love be dethroned, but by the power derived from the love of the Saviour, — love, not as a barren sentiment, but as a principle which is ever accompanied by obedience. ” If ye love me,” the Lord says, ” keep my commandments.”
Our Divine Director calls for love to Him, to lead us in our holy warfare against selfishness and sin. Without this, we cannot succeed ; and if this principle be genuine, it will always call for Simeon. With love and obedience, we shall never fail. However strong Adoni-Bezek seems, he will fall before these saving powers, and the Divine Saviour for whom, and under whom, they act. Their strength is not their own ; it is His who is Almighty. In His name and by His power we can assuredly conquer, and what a conquest is that which is achieved when the hell within is subdued and destroyed. It is like the extinguishment of a volcano : it is the obliteration of present and future restlessness and misery. This is the great warfare to which all men are called, — the Divine Crusade. Without this conquest all other achievements are unavailing. If self be unconquered, every flower of life has in it a destructive worm,— every joy is an illusion.
Be not dismayed, my beloved hearers, at the thought of undertaking this all-important work. Have the faith which springs from love. We are well able to accomplish it. Let Judah come forth to lead : love will join us to angels, and to Him who first loved us. He will nerve us for this encounter with self. He will impart His own likeness to us. He has led us the way. The Divine love which condescended to wear our nature, to live it, to suffer in it, to die in it, to sanctify it, and glorify it, — not for himself but for us, — will teach us to follow Him, and overcome even as He overcame. We can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth us. Never let us doubt, since He has the keys to death and hell. Be of good courage : all the powers of evil will be extinguished within you ; heaven will be opened and formed; Jehovah Jesus has descended, — lived, and died, and risen again, — that He might be Lord of the dead and the living.
” Amazing mercy! love immense !
Surpassing ev’ry human sense,
Since time and sense began
That man might shun the worlds of pain.
And know and love his God again,
His God became a man.”
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From The Divine Word Opened (1887)