And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.–Exodus xxiii. 25, 29, 30.
THERE are fallacies of a most dangerous character that tend seriously to interfere with our preparation for heaven. The first to which we would refer is the fallacy of the worldly man; the second is the fallacy of the religious man; the third is the fallacy of the heedless man;–of him who neglects the solemn and constant teaching of the Word of the Lord to all of us.
The first fallacy, the fallacy of the worldly man, results from his short-sighted notion that this world is his all; that he has been born here, that he lives here as the animals do, and then he dies. His short life of vexation and of joy, of triumph and of toil being over, he goes to sleep. We should find that almost every person if he was taxed with this notion in those precise terms, would say,–that is not a true description of my views of things. And yet in the perpetual run of daily life, you will find that the thoughts of pretty nearly ninety-nine men out of every hundred are very accurately measured by that description. Bow few there are who act from the living conviction that every day is given us on earth to prepare for a happy condition in the eternal world. The young man is too often of the earth, earthy. It is not so with children. Children are honest, ingenuous, truth-loving, and disposed to heavenly things. Speak to a child of the blessed arrangements of the kingdom of heaven, of its being made to live for ever, of the way in which it should act in order to be happy, and because the child has had a little stock of heavenly excellencies sown in it by the Lord to begin with, it sits and listens, and it loves to hear of all the blessed things that occur in heaven without any disbelief or doubt. Their angels do always behold the face of my father which is in heaven. And their angels suggest, and the little heart takes in the holy teachings, the things that belong to its peace; and the little heart rises often in thankful love to the God of Heaven, and rejoices that it has been made to be an angel.
But after a while the ruder parts of our fallen nature come out. As the youth increases in stature, heaven withdraws into the recesses of the soul, earth comes out more and more, until after a while, the young man gets more or less into disorder, and if not into direct evils, he goes into that entire worldliness that leads him to imagine that to get on in this world is all for which he really needs be anxious; that to get a first-rate income, a goodly house and fortune that will enable him to make a figure in the world, and gratify his propensities–this is the great aim of his life. This continues more or less for a large portion of life with the vast mass of human beings. They toil and they struggle. They live perhaps so that they do not call down upon themselves the condemnation of their friends and their neighbors and society; but they hope to become distinguished, powerful and wealthy:–to gratify themselves, and to secure the advantages that they seek in mere pleasurable life in the world–all these things continue to be the great aims of their lives. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and although all experience testifies against this world-wide folly, although even in living thus, the mind is filled with anxiety, or with self-condemnation, or with disappointment, distress, and misery; feeling how wretched a thing it is still to go on having no noble aim, with toil and trouble, often with heart-wretchedness and misery unspeakable, until at last, when the life checkered with great misery and little pleasure comes to an end, the common idea is,–Well it is all over now, poor fellow, we have done with him, and he has done with himself.
But is it so? It is the merest fallacy. It is not all over then. Death is but the gate to the real life, for which this is only the preparation. If the poor creature has gone on year after year, still acting from the same selfish principles, from the same worldly wisdom which is the bitterest folly, still living in the same anxious wretchedness until he has become a burden to himself and to others, sometimes leading him to lay violent hands upon himself, because he cannot bear himself any longer–is it all over with him? Ah no! He has taken himself with him wherever he has gone. He has taken all his evils, increased by his mistaken and fretful life of folly; and just as it is with the good man–he who has used his two talents gets other two, he who has wisely used his five talents gets other five–just as a man who is wise here is a thousand times more wise there, and a person who is loving here is a thousand times more loving in the spirit-world, and a person whose love has been brought into a state of heavenly harmony here is in a far more blessed harmony with the heavenly world, just so is it with the converse.
The man whose soul is selfish enough to desire to grasp everything in this world, becomes still more tremendously selfish in the eternal world. The man who has sought every sensual indulgence here is a thousand times more disposed to go against divine order there, and as the curbs, and bridles, end hindrances in this life chafed him, so the condition of things in the eternal world, becomes a thousand times more painful. He could bear truth but little here, but truth is the light of that world, and its brightness tortures him to madness. True heavenly love was painfully uncongenial to him here, but how will he bear the glorious spheres of angels? For every painful sting that he has had here, he will have a thousand flashing purities which will be as whips and scorpions there. Every spiritual law of the universe will be against him. He which is filthy let him be filthy still, and he that is righteous let him be righteous still. This is the eternal law for man, both religious and irreligious.
Secondly, there is the fallacy of the religious. This is a still more extensive and stubborn one in the world than the other. The yearnings of the soul are too strong in multitudes of men to allow them to be altogether indifferent, yet their evils are too much loved to be thoroughly given up. Hence come skin-deep religions. There must be a make-believe of something being done. Hence come superficial teachers who meet the demand, and perhaps themselves partake of the character, and say, man is saved by a belief or by a ceremony. These tell us, if a man with frenzied agony will say,–The Lord Jesus Christ died for him–his religious business will be done. Should he die immediately after conversion, he will then come into the eternal world to enter into all the enjoyments of heaven.
We have denominated this religion skin-deep. It makes scarcely any alteration in the human character except a superficial one. The converted person attends some religious meeting and conforms to the means of grace. He uses another style of words and does nothing which is not respectable amongst religious people. He is considered to be in a very proper state of mind, and is sure of heaven as soon as he dies. Yet when the first fervor of religious zeal is over, and we have an opportunity of seeing such persons in their actual dispositions, they are sometimes found as greedy, as selfish, as unpleasant to live with, as unhappy in their temper, as anxious, as pining, as mopish, and melancholy, as any of those who have never professed to believe.
These suppose themselves to be entirely in possession of the means of salvation and happiness; vet so little are they really happy, that they are amongst those who are perpetually fearing, hoping, wishing and desiring that somehow, and by some means, they shall get the assurance that they will enter heaven. They entirely overlook the great fact, that the kingdom of heaven must be within, or it will never be around us. The kingdom of heaven consists is a heavenly state of heart and mind and life. The kingdom of God, says the Apostle, is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. He who does not possess these things, he who is not holy in his thoughts, and feelings, and sentiments, and habits; he who does not rejoice in keeping the Lords commandments; he who is not heavenly and happy here, will not be heavenly or happy hereafter.
Keep the commandments! say the religious teachers of skin-deep religion, why it is not to be done–nobody can do it. That very saying is itself the condemnation of all such forms of religion. Religions that do not convert a person to keep the commandments; that do not raise him up to such a state of loving earnestness in his religious work, that the keeping of the commandments is not only not hard to him but is delightful–such a religion has little real value. A person who says, I am a religious man, I believe this, that, and the other, and yet I cannot keep the commandments–nobody can–is, himself, uttering the condemnation of his own religion. What does the Apostle say on the subject? This is the love of God that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. They are very grievous, to a person of the class we have named, and are very hard and difficult. He could keep the commandments well enough if they would bring him in forty per cent., he could keep the commandments well enough if they would allow him to do everything he likes. It is because there are so many things that he loves, end which the commandments forbid, that he finds it so difficult to keep them. He is not earnest in his determination to do it. He loves his appetites, his desires, his preferences, his own way, rather than Gods way;–therefore, it is difficult for him to keep the commandments.
Why, of course, a person cannot blow hot and cold at the same time–he cannot be black and white at the same time–he cannot be angel and devil at the same time–selfish and full of heavenly love at the same time.
If he will keep his selfishness, if he will hold to his sin, if he determine to be still worldly, full of the greed of gain, it will be hard for him to keep the commandments. He does not mean to keep them. But if, on the other hand, he bears in mind that the great business of life is for a man to become good, whether he gains by it or loses by it,–to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and to let everything else take its place–to leave to Divine Providence how much or how little of this worlds goods we have–to carry out earnestly the great aim of becoming loving servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, and companions of those that are good–in such a case a man will dwell in love, and dwelling in love he will dwell in God. Perfect love will cast out fear. And oh! what a change is this from that corrupt and evil state of the fallen heart that man has before religion begins its work! It is a change as complete as that which is set before us in the Divine Word here and elsewhere.
Canaan is first represented as inhabited by people unspeakably corrupted; guilty of every polluted practice-worshipping Moloch and Baal, and Ashtaroth–giving way to nameless abominations. Compare that with Canaan in the time of Solomon, when all was peaceable, pure and orderly; when the glorious temple of the living God was seen to shed its luster over the whole land. The change from the one condition to the other, and its: religious significance, is the subject before us.
This country, Canaan, as it was when the Divine Being ordered the Israelites to advance and take possession of it, is the image of the unregenerate heart. The three peoples who are named here, the Hivite, the Canaanite and the Hittite, as we have shewn on former occasions, are each representative of the leading evils of the unregenerate heart. The driving of them out by little and little, is representative of the only way in which evils can be extirpated, and heaven descend into the human heart and character. And these different nations are representations of specific evils. We will dwell a little upon them, and shall then see how beautifully they figure to us the work which we have to do. It is said, And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. The Hivite was a nation or tribe inhabiting the north of the land of Judah–the part in the immediate neighborhood of Jericho and Ai, into which Joshua led the armies of the Israelites upon their first taking possession after crossing Jordan. They were a people of a peculiar character, not by any means the worst of the people of the land. They were disposed to do as other people did.
When they found that Joshua and the Israelites were the conquering party, they are introduced to us, in the early part of the book of Joshua, as in a very wily manner pretending to have been sent as ambassadors from a country a long way off. They were perfectly willing to do as Joshua and the host required, and the result was, that they entered into a covenant, and were ordered to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, and to be protected so long as they conformed to the manners of the Israelites. They are, therefore, representative of that disposition of outward conformity to a religious life, which is simply the result of imitation, and not of conviction; not of a deep-rooted sense that we must be born again, and live for the kingdom of heaven. This disposition is found in a large number of people who are prepared to do as other people do, and when it is the fashion to be religious, they will be religious too, particularly if it is a profitable thing to do. These are the spiritual Hivites. Such states of mind never have the peace of real religion, they are of that class of feelings which have neither the pleasure of sin, nor the delights of religion. A person of this class is a spiritual nonentity–a kind of religious nobody, who neither goes boldly into sin, and has the pleasures of ungodliness, nor goes earnestly into religion and leads the life of heaven. He has the restrictions, the bridle of religion, an obsequiousness to the requirements of religion, and yet inwardly his heart is not good in the sight of the Lord.
It is said that hornets should be sent upon them. Some writers (and there are indications which would seem to support this view) conceive that one of the means of clearing the promised land was by means of immense swarms of hornets–those terrible little animals that sting, and torment those whom they pester: but whether that be so or not, the hornet and its sting are representative, in the Divine Word, of the stings and pains of soul that come from not being really devoted to what is good and true; of the disappointments, the miseries, the petty frettings, and continual annoyances which occur with those who have not subdued their tempers to the celestial state of loving the Lord above all things, and their neighbor as themselves. These, whenever the divine power, the power of religion, is brought to bear upon them, feel a smart like the hornets sting that wounded the Hivites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites spoken of here. There are always hornets with such people, achings of heart, continual affliction from time to time. They are at war with themselves. Their lives are a continual fret: there is with them no solid happiness.
Everything that is right tends to pain them. These pains are the stings of the spiritual hornets that have to be endured. They are said to be sent by the Lord, first, because it so appears to the evil, and secondly, because He does sustain the laws from which these effects follow.
It is said, the Canaanites also; for by the Canaanites are meant the dispositions to downright sin.
The moment that Joshua and his people shewed themselves in the land of Canaan, five kings of the Canaanites, headed by Adonibezek, gathered together and came forward to oppose them, and there was a terrible battle.
Adonibezek was a thoroughly heartless tyrant who is said to have had seventy-two kings captive under his table, with hands and feet mutilated, there to receive the insults and the crumbs of this miserable monarch, whose name accurately describes what sort of being he was; Adoni lord, besek fetters–the Lord of fetters. This bad king with his people, the Canaanites, are representative of self-love with its terrible companion-passions, envy, hatred, lust, and all the abominations of the false heart; which ever and anon, whenever they can, and by every means in their power, will ruthlessly oppose the progress of heavenly principles. To represent this condition of heart, with all its bad passions, the Canaanites come up from time to time in the divine history, until at length, where the more glorious state of things of the kingdom of the Lord are spoken of, and long after every literal Canaanite had been blotted out from the face of the land, it is said, There shall no more be a Canaanite in the House of the Lord of Hosts. There is no more a Canaanite when there is no more selfish hostile, hateful, opposition to the hand of heaven.
The Hittites, or children of Heth, were the old inhabitants of the country. They inhabited what afterwards became the south of Judah. From them Abraham bought the ground in which the body of Sarah was interred. They retained in Canaan the remains of a grand church which had once spread over the East, the ancient church whose doctrines had been pure but were now perverted. The names of places in their country, such as Debir–the Word, and many others, all indicate that true religion had once shone over that region. Now, however, all was perverted. Hence, the Hittites represent the principles of a perverted religion, claiming a divine authority and resisting change, although all their religion is a mere cover and pretense. They love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. They love, therefore, dark and mysterious dogmas. They proclaim these loudly, and say, they are true because of their antiquity.
Their fathers believed them, and, therefore, they must be true. They do not trouble themselves about change of heart, nor about what is true or what is false, but struggle for the maintenance of solemn mockeries, notwithstanding the utter failure of these to remove either sin or sorrow.
These three things, then, have to be driven out of the soul. Conformity to the world; the evils of the heart; and the false views of the intellect. As these are expelled, the soul will have peace. Only, however, by little and little can this be done. Not that we must be heedless, easy, and indifferent about it, and do little when we could do much. But, on the contrary, we must labor and strive, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to become renewed in heart, mind and life, and neither despair nor be impatient if we find our progress much slower than we had hoped. We can leave outward sin at once, and we must do so. There is no change at all without that. There must be no paltering with outward evil. But there are crowds of inward sins, inward follies and weaknesses, for our iniquities are more than the hairs of our heads, and often when we suppose they have all been expelled we shall find them in force once more. But we must take courage, fight the good fight, day by day, in the Lords strength, and with grateful faith in Him, and by little and little all that is evil will be expelled, and we shall be renewed in all that is good. If we die while the contest is going on, we are on the Lords side, and shall go to His kingdom. Our aim was the complete triumph of the Lord, and that in the other life will give the character to the whole man, that is the whole angel.
Author: Jonathan Bayley — From Egypt to Canaan (1869)