<< Judges 7: The Victory Over The Midianites >>
And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. 17And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. 18When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. 19So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. 20And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. 21And they stood every man in his place round about the camp; and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. –Judges 7:16-21
WAR, though sometimes a sad necessity, is never an object upon which the Christian loves to dwell. Hence, probably, without a option of the spiritual sense of the Word, the history of Israel’s wars would form its least valued portion. We shudder to read of the extermination of cities and nations. And, though it may be said, and with justice, that the nations which were to rooted out of Canaan were so sunk in pollution, so inveterately corrupt, that ridding the world of them was like ridding the body of fearful cancers, which unless extirpated would destroy the sufferer’s life ; so that the surgeon’s knife is merciful, yet, yet the operation is not agreeable, as an object of contemplation. We would rather not ponder upon the means, however beneficial the end. To such a state of mind, it sometimes occurs as a question, why the relation of wars should form part of the Word of God ? We answer, for the sake of the spiritual sense, There are wars in which every one must engage, and these were represented by the wars of Israel. This consideration raises the narrative of battles in the Sacred Scriptures, at once, to a divine and necessary character. We greatly need to be instructed how to fight, and how to conquer, in the warfare with self and sin. It is alike a manifestation of Divine care and Wisdom to enable us to say with the psalmist, ” Blessed be the Lord my strength, who teachth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight : my goodness and my fortress ; my high tower, and my deliverer ; my shield and He in whom I trust ; who subdueth my people under me— Ps. cxliv. 1, 2.
That we have all much to struggle against and conquer is one of the first lessons we should learn : “Think not that I am com to send peace on earth,” saith our Lord, ” I came not to send peace, but a sword.” — Matt. x. 34. Though peace is the ultimate object to be attained in the soul, it is only to be obtained by struggle. Happy is he who learns this lesson early, and begins this struggle soon.
To recognize the necessity of a severe and constant strife against the disorderly propensities of our nature, we need only to reflect that peace and happiness can only exist, where love to God and charity to man are the ruling principles of life. They flow from one fountain, God, and love is the channel down which they descend. Interior rest can only be found in God ; outward comfort can only be, when we are in kindly harmony with men. “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, for God is love: there is no fear in love ; but perfect love casteth out fear.” The convictions of our inmost highest nature are in agreement with these declarations : “I delight in the law of God after the inward man : but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” — Rom. vii. 22, 23.
This is the universal experience. The mind of man is naturally like two hostile camps. In the higher region are principles of innocence, hope, love, justice, trust, kindness, purity, and tenderness, — those angels of the soul ; ” For of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In the lower regions of the soul, are seen and felt, selfishness, pride, vanity, contempt for others, injustice, faithlessness, harshness, impurity, and violence, and of such is the kingdom of hell.
There can be no peace between these two. ” There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”— Is. lvii. 20, 21. Life is a state of conflict, both for the virtuous and the evil. The virtuous, however, strive on the side of heaven, and they are assisted by heavenly powers, and by the Saviour Himself. They have often cessations of warfare, seasons of blessing, and their end is peace. The wicked struggle against their better part ; they oppose their inner convictions; they stifle the voice of conscience ; they smother their nobler impulses ; they harden themselves against God and goodness. Again, and again, they resist the calls of virtue, religion, and right, and take the side of self-indulgence, pollution, and wrong, until all that is heavenly is scared from the breast, and they deliver themselves up to the unending dominion of passions and lusts, which have only ceased to to struggle against heavenly influences to prey upon one another. Little comfort had the wicked man before he gave the victory to his lusts, but less has he now. The harpies of his depraved appetites incessantly harass and worry each other, His spirit is like a dark forest in which fierce animals prowl and fight : ” There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
It is in reflecting light upon these mental struggles, and affording guidance to the earnest Christian, that the history of the wars of the Israelites are of inestimable value. Let us trace and apply the lesson in the narrative before us. The Israelites had been much infested by three nations in their immediate neighbourhood, the Amalekites, the Midianitcs, and a people called the children of the east. They oppressed them with a cruel hand ; they destroyed even the means of subsistence, as we are informed in the preceding chapter. ” And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianitcs came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them ; and they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come to Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.” — ver. 3, 4.
These people, at least the Amalekites, and the Midianites, were descendants from Abraham indirectly, and inhabited the borders of Canaan on the south, south-east and east. They were at the land, but not in the land. Hence they correspond to the principles of those who border on the Church, but are not in it. They know and believe what the Gospel teaches in a certain fashion, but do not love and do it. They are opposed to, and hasten to destroy, a growing and progressive religion. They assailed Israel most cruelly on their march, and came, as recorded in the narrative before us, to exterminate the rising corn.
We will endeavour to investigate more closely the threefold foe indicated in the Divine history, and we shall then probably see more fully the appropriateness of the preparation by Gideon for their discomfiture, and the important lesson indicated by the mode of attack, mentioned in our text. They were all at this time deadly enemies of Israel. The Amalekites were the most malignant. It is recorded of them that they insidiously hung around the Israelites on their march, and when any remained behind from weakness or weariness they were put to death by these lurking and harassing foes. ” Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt ; bow he met thee by the way, and smote the hindermost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary ; and he feared not God.” — Deut. xxv. 17, 18. Amalek was the most powerful foe of Israel, during the pilgrimage in the wilderness, as well as the most malignant. “Amalek was the first of the nations, but his latter end should be that he perish for ever.” — Numb. xxiv. 20. Amalek has an awful peculiarity of notice from Jehovah : “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua : for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah- nissi : for he said, because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” — Ex. xvii. 14 — 16.
From all this it is not difficult to draw the inference that Amalek must be the representative of some peculiarly deadly principle, some malignant strong delusion, to which the spirit of the Lord is incessantly opposed. There are times in our journey of life, when we feel weary and toilworn. When we are tired of our struggles against our evils and our difficulties, and become almost hopeless. Life seems hollow and a blank. We are weary with the world and with ourselves. Perhaps, high hopes have been blighted. The fair prospects we once had, have gradually receded until they have vanished. Disappointments and losses have perhaps been added to internal vexations, and we are sadly pining over the disappearance of many a golden vision. At such times the deadly fallacy will break in upon us. Give up ; throw all good aside ; strive no longer. Do as other people do : get as much sinful pleasure and sinful gain as you can, and take your chance with the millions who are reckless. This is Amalek. Many a poor weak soul, battered and down- east in the struggle of life, has sunk under this direful despairing suggestion, which comes into the soul from fiends who have a malignant joy in man’s ruin, and like the withering hot blast of the desert, ruins and wastes all before it. This is Amalek,— subtle, terrible, despair-creating. Under its influence spirits often become paralyzed, and a melancholy downward course is terminated in a ruin, at which pity shudders and turns mournfully away. Oh ! that men would learn to remember that this principle of despairing delusion is abhorrent to the Divine Love. ” Jehovah has war with Amalek, from generation to generation.”
Never despair, should be the motto of life. The objects we fondly follow, are often only gilded snares. To grant our requests would frequently be less merciful than to refuse them. Divine Wisdom sees better how to promote our real good than we ourselves do, and Divine Love infinitely cares for us. Let us be confiding and content : ” Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth.” Let us welcome the sifting which removes from us our chaff, but secures to us the wheat. Let us submit our own wills to the directions of unchanging, unerring mercy, and all will be well. Let love and faith, like Caleb and Joshua, hold up our hands when we are assailed by Amalek, and power will descend from heaven to give us the victory, and change our despairing thoughts into joys, hopes, and blessings unspeakable. Amalek with his black troop will fly, and ministering angels will take their place.
The Midianites were not always enemies of Israel. They were traders and intermediates between Egypt and Canaan. Midianites drew Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites — thus saving his life. That they were representative, is evident from their being mentioned in the prophetical part of the Scriptures, as taking part in operations of the future Church, in times when Midian, as a distinct nation or tribe, would long have ceased to be. In the glorious state of things described by Isaiah — which can have no fulfilment in anything less than an eminently exalted state of the Christian Church, such as has not yet ever been attained, it is said, “The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah ; all they from Sheba shall come : they shall bring gold and incense ; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.” — Isa. lx. 6. On he other hand, in that sublime and mysterious vision of the prophet Habakkuk, in which the end of the Jewish dispensation is portrayed ; the prophet says, ” I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction : and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers ? was thine anger against the rivers ? was thy wrath against the sea, that Thou didst ride upon Thine horses and Thy chariots of salvation.” — Hab. iii. 7, 8.
Midian, then, sometimes the friend and sometimes the foe of the Church ; sometimes assisting the praises of the Lord, and sometimes covering the soul with curtains which tremble before the judgment and presence of the Lord, is the type of that kind of general belief in the doctrines of religion, which may lead to something better, but in which great numbers often rest, so as to make a profession of a kind of faith which is not saving, because neither grounded in love, nor flowing into practice. The children of the east, the coadjutors of the two former, represent all such portions of the Scriptures, as can be pressed into the service of an inward aversion to God and goodness, but combined with an outward profession of piety and regard for holiness.
The three enemies then, taken together, typify a sort of religion, practically and interiorly setting love and goodness at nought, but at the same time covering this by pious pretences and false views of God, His dealings, and His Word. Such is the religion of a large portion of mankind. Such is the religion of a large portion of mankind. The true end of religion is to make men into angels, and to promote the population of heaven. This can only be done by a Church which subdues selfishness, and raises up justice grounded in love. That religion whose principles are pure, and whose practice is in harmony with its principles, can alone bring the human soul into harmony with heaven, and make it possible to enter there. A religion which only cries believe, believe, believe, may be prevalent, and may even be universal, and still its professors may be real enemies of the genuine Israel of God : of those who are endeavouring, by Divine Mercy, to cultivate in their souls that heavenly harvest which is first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.
The devils believe and tremble. ” If we have all faith, and have not charity, we are nothing” (1 Cor. xii. 2.) The true Israel of God, the church which strives to follow the Lord Jesus in the regeneration, which shows it loves him by keeping his commandments, is oppressed when such systems of faith without love, profession without practice, piety without justice, prevail. Mankind sink under the dominion of such principles when they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. How the watchful care of our Heavenly Father delivers us from such principles, is the grand lesson of the work before us.
First, the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, who was threshing wheat by the wine-press, to hide it from the Midianites (Judges vi. 11). The Lord selects such to be leaders in His cause, as they are quietly cultivating the interior virtues of religion ; discriminating between what is substantially good, and what is only apparently so : such as, in practice, are saying, ” What is the chaff to the wheat?” Gideon is doing this, by the wine-press, because the wine-press corresponds to the rational faculty : that principle whose office it is to press out the wine of heavenly truth, from the letter in which God gives it to man.
In evil times, when folly and wickedness abound, the man whom God will choose for His enterprises is His who in secret ponders over His will and service ; he who determines for himself, unswayed by custom or by fashion, what is good and acceptable in the sight of God his Saviour : he who does not stray from what his reason enables him to acknowledge to be right, but lives spiritually by the heavenly sustenance he thus quietly obtains. This man is a spiritual Gideon, and sooner or later will the angel of the Lord announce to him, ” The Lord is with ihee, thou mighty man of valour” (ver.13).
The next circumstance which is especially worthy of remark is the mode by which the men of Gideon’s army were to be selected. They were to be taken to the water, and the Lord would distinguish who should be accepted by the manner in which he drank. So he brought down the people unto the water ; and the Lord said unto Gideon, ” Every one that lappeth of the water with the tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down on his knees to drink, And the number of them that lappeth, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men : but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. And the Lord said unto Gideon. By the three hundred men that lappeth will I save you. And deliver the Midianites into thine hand : and let all the other people go every man into his place.” — ver. 5 — 7.
This markable test is full of instructive interest. The bed to the water: and so must it ever be with those who become spiritually victorious ; they must be brought to the heavenly water — the truth of the Word of God. The prophet announces this : ” Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters ; come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” — Is. lv. 1. The Lord Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, ” If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee. Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” — John iv. 10.. To receive those truths which teach the necessity of purity in heart and life, as the very path to heaven, which illustrat the purity of the Lord — of His divine law and His everlasting kingdom, — this is to drink of the water of life.
But those alone who lapped as a dog lappeth, putting their hand to their mouth, would be the only ones permitted to do the work of the Lord. To lap as a dog lappeth, is to take Divine Truth eagerly ; not to be dainty and difficult with it, but earnest. Putting the hand to the mouth, also intimates that it should be with the soul’s whole might ; and such only is the mode in which we can at any time be prepared to overcome in the contests of life. If we are hesitating and uncertain in our acceptance of truth ; very nice, in the when, the where, and the how, we shall acknowledge our adherence to it ; rather patronizing it, than accepting it as our law and guide ; we are not warriors whom God will own, but such as will hear the words, “ let the people go every man to his own place.”
O may this salutary lesson sink deeply into our hearts, and make us earnest! The struggle with our sins is no child’s play: the evils of the heart are mighty, the fallacies of the mind are numerous, specious and strong. Nothing but their overthrow will really prepare us for heaven. The reason why so much inneffective religion exists in the world, so little enjoyment of peace and blessing from the Lord, which come only from conquered sin, is, that so many read and hear the Word with listless half-heartedness, not as the truth of the Eternal God, the message of life and death, the summons to work, upon obedience to which, our everlasting weal depends. O may we, my beloved hearers, be deeply impressed “with the serious character of life, and life’s business ; and when we come to hear or read the truth, may we do so with an earnest appetite, and a rivetted attention, ” putting our hand to our mouth !”
The men who were thus selected by God to be led on by Gideon, were three hundred, and were to be formed into three companies. Thus there are three kinds of enemies on the one side, and three companies of friends on the other.
But let us next notice the remarkable equipment of Gideon’s soldiers. They were to be furnished with trumpets in their right hands, to blow withal, and pitchers in their left hands, each containing a lamp lighted within.
This method of arming would scarcely be effectual in modern times, but it appears to have entirely succeeded on this occasion. A sudden panic seized the hearts of the oppressors ; they quailed before the advancing friends of freedom, and flew in the utmost terror away ; numbers of them slew each other, and Israel was completely delivered.
The Christian’s armour both for offence and defence is obtained from the Word of God. When properly equipped, however, to oppose the Amalekites, Midianites, and children of the east which trouble him ; he has always the trumpet in his right hand, and the pitcher with the lamp in his left. When he speaks of the evils which are to be shunned, and the virtues which are to be done, he lifts up his voice like a trumpet. ” Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” — Isa. lviii. 1. The trumpet with all its varied notes of joy and wail, of vigour and of triumph, is an expressive symbol of the proclamation of the Gospel. The solemn yet glorious invitation to a happy home in heaven, is like the clear, joyous, heart-exhilarating note of a silver trumpet, and ” Blessed are the people that hear the joyful sound.” The utterance of the divine commands to shun and extirpate our evils, is as the sounding of a charge to battle, while the of thanksgiving, when we feel we have conquered, is indeed a trumpet of victory. In our conflicts, then, against sin and error, especially against the subtle forms of them as veil themselves with specious fallacies of a deference for God and His Word, we must be well grounded in the knowledge of what the will of the Most High is really proclaimed to be. We must have trumpets in our right hands.
The point to which all real religion converges is the keeping God’s commandments, from a spirit of love and faith in Him. “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God?” The point to which all irreligion converges is to resist, or to neglect the commandments of God. All true religion tends to obedience, all irreligion to disobedience. Atheism declares there exists no Deity, and therefore He can have given no commands. Deism admits a Deity, but says He has given no special revelation to man, and therefore there are no commandments to which we need attend from Him. The practical result is the same, disavowal of God’s commandments, and a life according to our own will. Amidst a crowd of professed religions, precisely the same object is attained, and to a far greater extent ; for few men are satisfied to have no religion, and these with great effort constantly keep down the demands of their nature for God. The great mass demand and acknowledge a religion, but invent some specious perversion under that venerable name, which still leaves them the practice of such sins of omission or commission as they feel naturally inclined to retain. This compound of unwillingness to change, combined with reverence for God and revelation, which the acceptance of religion requires, is often seen.
Vast numbers substitute for a change of heart and life, certain ceremonies, to which they ascribe immense importance ; and if these are done, the weightier matters may be without danger ommitted. Others suppose that forgiveness by a priest at periodical times will secure their pardon from the Deity, however His divine laws are slighted, and their evil passions are unconquered. Others, again, suppose their lot to have been fixed before the world began, and they cannot presume to attempt to alter it. While an immense number trust that the Lord Jesus suffered punishment due to sin, and at any time when they believe this, His holiness and merit are attributed to them, and they are, from that moment, at death, or whenever the instant of faith may be, as fully saved, and as completely righteous, as the most devoted saint or highest angel. These views, however varied, in other respects, unite in this, — they induce neglect of the commandments of God, a persistence in the evils we love, and prevent religion from really transforming us into the likeness of the grand Head of the Church, and Fountain of all excellence.
The opposition to practical and progressive religion by such compounds of secret aversion to goodness, and partial acceptance and real perversion of the truths of revelation is represented by Amaleck, Midian, and the children of the east in the struggle before us. When the young Christian has received the good seed of the Word, and is watching its growth in the soul, desiring really to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and fruits meet for heaven, these false persuasions come on like a devastating foe. ” When Israel had sown, the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them, and they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth. And Israel was greatly impoverished, because of the Midianites ; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites.” — Judges vi. 3, 4, 7. When those who are represented by these foes of Israel see tender souls wishful to live for heaven, careful to conform to the commandments of God, it is not uncommon for them to ask, How do you expect to be saved ? The conscientious Christian replies, Through Divine help, walking according to the commandments of the Lord. Keeping the commandments! keeping the commandments! Why you surely don’t expect to go to heaven that way ? You are depending then upon your own righteousness! You are undervaluing Christ’s atonement! You are sure to be lost! You are neglecting the way of faith! Man is saved by faith, and faith only, without the deeds of the law. But surely the sincere seeker for purity and peace rejoins, We are to keep God’s commandments. Oh no, it has nothing to do with salvation! That is buying heaven with your own works. You are in a very wrong way indeed.
The commandments have nothing to do with salvation. They were not given to be kept, only to show us what God’s requirements are, and convince us how impossible it is to keep them, so as to drive us to another path — the path of faith in Christ as our substitute. Such persuasions, urged with vigour, bring the spirit into doubt, until some heaven-inspired Gideon comes to arm the oppressed and suffering servants of the Lord. And first the trumpets are placed in their right hands to blow withal. Or, in other words, they are well furnished with those plain declarations of the will of the Word which so abundantly declare the necessity of practical obedience, as altogether essential to salvation. And this the whole Word supplies. It commences with the opening of divine revelation, and is repeated to the last chapter. ” If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted ? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at thy door ” — Gen. iv. 7. “O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever.” — Deut. v. 29. ” And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us.” — Deut. vi. 24, 25. “Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which you shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you ; because it is your life. — Deut. 46, 47. ” The law of the Lord is perfect converting the the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple, the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart : the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” — Psalm 7,8. “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” — Isa. xlviii. 18. ” Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven : but whosover shall do and teach them, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in NO CASE enter into the kingdom of heaven.” — Matt. v. 19, 20. ” If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Matt. xix. 17. ” By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments : and, His commandments are not grievous.” — 1 John v. 2, 3. ” Blessed they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city— Rev. xxii. 14.
The Divine Word on these great subjects, and all thus connected with the weighty concerns of love to God and man, gives no uncertain sound. It is a true, clear blast from heaven. Its glorious proclamation even is, ” Love worketh no ill to his neighbour, love is the fulfilling of the law.” — Rom. xiii. 18. ” Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing ; but the keeping of the commandments of God,” — 1 Cor. 7, 19. Faith is a means to effect obedience, but not a substitute for it. ” Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and I have not charity, I am nothing.” — I Cor. xiii. 2. The Word of God as a trumpet, then, is the Word proclaiming goodness, and denouncing sin : the Word insisting on supreme love to the Lord, testified by shunning evil, and doing His holy will. The people were ordered to shout ” The sword of the Lord and of Gideon,”
because their armour represented the Word of God, and “the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.” — Eph. vi. 17. This Word is quick and powerful, and shaper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
But, besides the trumpets in their right hands, the people were to hold pitchers in their left hands containing lamps (ver. 20). And these pitchers are the types of the Word of God, but of those portions where its divine truth is not so manifest to all, being a light within, but covered round, as it were, in a pitcher. From such portions as are thus covered to come down to the state of the natural man, it is, chiefly, that obstinate errors derive their support. They lean on the letter that killeth, and neglect the spirit, which giveth life (2 Cor. iii. 6). Like the veil which was put on the face of Moses in mercy at first, until the Jews could bear to look on the inner light, but was afterwards retained by them on their hearts, as St. Paul says, even to his day; so the letter of the Word which is intended as the first step of the ladder let down from heaven to give us the means of rising to the upper ones. But the natural man, who does not desire to become spiritual, will have the letter, and nothing else. The pitcher is ail in all to him, and not the light which it contains. The soldiers of Gideon, however, knew that their pitchers contained lamps, and were prepared, when necessary, to break the pitcher, and show the light. Let it be borne in mind now, that a state of mind is pictured in the warfare before us, which is infested by a specious but false religion ; interiorly opposed to all real growth in goodness, signified by the deadly Amalek, presenting some scheme as a substitute for actual regeneration. Often, such a persuasion will represent the Deity, as they say, infinitely just, but really fierce, harsh, and selfish ; and appeal to his dealings with man in the garden of Eden. Did He not there, say they, command that the tree of knowledge should not be touched upon pain of death to Adam and his posterity for ever ? Was not this threat put into execution ? Did not death come upon all, and would it not have so continued, had not Christ brought back the favour of God for all who believe that He died for them? Is not then salvation from the wrath of God by belief only ? Such and such like, are the reasonings founded on the letter, without any perception of the spirit of the Holy Word. They belong to the pitcher, and not to the light. The soldiers of Gideon are instructed to break the pitchers, and show the light ; or, in other words, to penetrate through the letter, and expose the spirit of divine revelation. They know, and they explain, that the garden of Eden was an inward state of mind, and its trees were the principles there. When man turned to his own knowledge, instead of feeding on the life-giving principles of love and wisdom from God, he inflicted death upon himself, the only death the good man dreads. God cautioned him against it beforehand, but could only save him from it so long as he wished to be saved. He who sins, sinks into death, and can only fly from death, by flying from sin. ” To be carnally minded is death ; to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” — Rom. viii. 6. Christ came to deliver us from sin, by giving us the power to rise above it, and out of it, not to substitute what He did, for what we have to do. Come to Him, my beloved hearers, for life, the actual life of love and goodness. He came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly (John x. 10). He came, the very God, against whom man sinned in Eden ; came to reach us, to save us, to give us life. He lived, and died, and rose again, that He might be to us a Saviour from sin, and thus from death and hell.
Oh, but, it will be sometimes said, we cannot come to Christ unless the Father draw us. Is it not written, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent mo draw him? Here again we must break the pitcher, and show the light. The Father is the Divine Love, this is the principle of the Deity which is the Father of all things. This principle was the moving cause of redemption. In His love, and in His pity, He redeemed us. This Father must indeed draw us, before we can come to Christ and be taught. But He never fails to draw. His warmth pervades the spiritual universe, like that of the sun pervades the solar system ; and as this latter draws up all the juices of vegetation to bring forth flowers and fruits, so does the attractive influence of the love of God draw us.
This is the sun of the spiritual system. Jehovah is the everlasting light. He draws for ever. He has been drawing us ever sincee we were born. He will still draw us, so long as we have anything within us upon which His love can act. But He never draws capriciously, waning and drawing this man, and refusing that, equal circumstances. The Father is the Divine Love. It is infinite. It says for ever, ” Can a woman forget a sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb ? yea, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” This is our Father. Never let us attribute to him our want of salvation and happiness. He desires to save us, infinitely more than we can desire to be saved. The Father, in Christ, is the fountain of every blessing. Is it said, again, that the Lord limited salvation again, when He said, ” To sit on my right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but for whom (or to whom) it is prepared of my Father.” — Matt. xx. 23. Look again, through the letter, to the spirit. The Father is the Divine Love. How could any one enter and enjoy His kingdom, but those who are prepared for it, by the work of love in their hearts and minds? Heaven is the kingdom of love : Divine Love warms it, forms its magnificent scenery, and blesses all its inhabitants. But none can be blessed, by the unutterable and innumerable joys of a kingdom of love, but such as are prepared for it, by the Divine Love forming them to itself, in this world. The vain would not be in happiness, where all are humble ; the ambitious, where self-seeking is abhorred, as a monstrosity ; the sordid and polluted would not be happy, where all are pure. But they may here become pure. The kingdom of love is prepared — they may be be prepared by the truth flowing from love, which we have from the Lord Jesus. For our sakes He sanctified Himself that we may be sanctified by the truth. Oh! let us then never hesitate to begin the work of preparation for heaven, by being heavenly. We can never enter heaven without this preparation. Even Jesus, who says ” all power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth,” declares, “to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give,” except to those for whom it is prepared. He could give it, if any one could, but it is impossible. Love cannot enter where hate dwells, or purity where lust is nurtured.
” Glory to Jesus’ sacred name,
Who all my sorrows bore ;
For this great end the Saviour came,
That I might sin no more.
” Yes, God who reigns in realms of bliss.
Where angels Him adore,
Was born and glorified in this,
That I should sin no more.”
When, then, the Amalekites, against whom Jehovah has war from generation to generation, with Midianites, and the sons of the east as allies, come against your harvest growing for heaven; when they would persuade you that the conquering of sin, and the growth in goodness of real religion, are not required; blow your trumpets and break your pitchers. Let the trumpets of Divine Truth be loudly and clearly heard ; let the light of the Spirit of the Word be clearly seen. No happiness can be had on earth, but in proportion as self and sin are subdued. No religion that takes our attention from that great work, either to ceremonies or modes of mere belief, can have any value in the sight of God, or of good men. The Lord has done every thing for us that boundless love and wisdom could do. But to be angelic men, we must operate with the Lord, and work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are unhappy now in proportion as we are in evil, and so it will be in eternity. Let us shun sorrow by shunning sin, and faithfully cultivating all the virtues which flow from justice, mercy, charity, and piety. Let us pray constantly and earnestly to the Lord Jesus Christ for daily power to do this, and we shall become more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. Never allow any persuasions to have the least influence with you, which under pretence of honouring God, would make you less observant of His laws ; but overturn all destructive fallacies as keep you from the life which alone leads to happiness, here, and hereafter. Struggle in the power of the living Saviour, against inbred sin and all its seductive suggestions, and when pretended forms, with an inward evil, would lead you to suppose that a barren religion will suffice to secure everlasting peace, like Gideon’s victorious three hundred men, who took of the water, putting their hand to their mouth, do you, with holy zeal, blow the trumpets in your right hand, break your pitchers, and show the light in your left, and depend the assured strength of the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.
” Above all things
Be spiritual ; what thou hast to do,
Do as before thy God, th’ all-seeing One,
Lest then become the slave of hollow shame,
And meaningless observances ; a thing
Less of vitality than mechanism.
Examine if thy piety to God
Be real, earnest, thorough ; if to man
A sacrificing, self-denying thing.
Let thy devotions be sincere, beware,
Lest prayers be only words : remember, God
Not only hears thy prayers, but answers thoughts.
They who live prayer, best pray ; live praise.
Best worship. With thyself be still sincere,
If thou desirest peace or joy. Thy heart,
Is it antagonistic to thy head ?
Behind conviction still does duty lay ?
Woe, woe to him who is a two-souled man.
Heavenly on Sabbath, worldly all the week,
An angel in God’s house, a fiend at home,
Neither at one with God nor with himself.”
Are you then, my beloved hearers, thrashing wheat by the wine-press? Are you endeavouring to distinguish between real goodness and its coverings? Are you doing this faithfully using your clearest reason ? Then persevere, with you. Though the three foes of inward malice, false faith, and misapplied Scripture be against you, fear them not. The Lord will give you three companies of virtue to combat for you. Let these drink of the water of life freely. Let them equipped from the armoury of heaven. And when the struggle comes they will so blow the trumpets and break the pitchers that all opposition will fly, and fade, like chaff before the wind. Be ye, then, faithful, valiant for truth and goodness; and ye will be victors in a struggle, where the prize is everlasting bliss.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From The Divine Word Opened (1887)