« PreviousContinue »
Lord, which he spake by Elijah." | thing wasted. Out of it God -1 Kings xvii. 16.
is making the bones of fishes, coral reefs, &c. And if the principle on which the Deity is managing the great palace of nature were taken into the homes of destitution that abound, there might be less drunkenness, &c., but there would oftener be "the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil."
II. A PRINCIPLE IN CONNECTION WITH PROVIDENCE.
As a rule, when, as I have hinted, economy may be vain, God's special care will insure for the good "the barrel of meal," &c. Sometimes, indeed, the noblest have to pass to where the Lamb, who is in the midst of them, shall feed them, from tables breadless, and garrets fireless, &c. But that is not the rule, for what means this " Thy bread shall be given," &c. And this, "First seek ye the kingdom of God," &c? Expect opulence, and there may be disappointment; look for the divine care, and "the barrel of meal," &c.
THIS miracle illustrates
I. A PRINCIPLE IN CONNECTION WITH ECONOMY
For what can so well define economy as making much out of little? Where it exists there will seldom be absent "the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil." Destitution is sometimes an awful necessity; but for the most part it is selfincurred. The greatest generosity would often be to teach economy. See how Jesus teaches it to men, even in the presence of abounding plenty, and whilst giving proof that the resources of infinitude are behind him! And that gathering up the fragments that nothing be lost, is just what the great God is doing evermore. The economy of nature is as startling as uniform. The gas flung off by the vegetable world do you think it is wasted? It becomes a source of your health and life! And the gas that you exhale in breathing is not wasted; it becomes food for the trees, and that carbon. Whence is the rain that refreshes the face of the earth? It is the result of economy, of God's treasuring up the water, absorbed by the sun. Of all the refuse of this earth that the rivers bear into the ocean, there is no
III. A PRINCIPLE IN CONNECTION WITH PIETY. "Man liveth not by bread alone," &c. We never starve in spiritual life for lack of help. There is always bread enough in our Father's house, and to spare, if we will only take it. When we fail in duty, &c., it is because we ignore the bread
of life. But, although there is enough and to spare, just enough is given us. "As thy day thy strength shall be." Hence we often wonder how we shall pass through difficulties, trials, temptations that stare us in the face. But we do get through, and it is because "the barrel of meal," &c.
IV. A PRINCIPLE IN CONNECTION WITH GENEROSITY.
This woman gave and got. But let us remember that she gave unselfishly, and not in order to get. Moreover, she gave to her utmost. She gave to a prophet, in the name of a prophet, and she received a prophet's reward. The reward is not always a material one; it is sometimes sympathy, sometimes the benediction of poverty, and always the smile of the soul and God. Preston. H. J. MARTYN.
THE BRAZEN SERPENT.
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."-John iii. 14, 15.
I. AN HISTORICAL FACT DIVINELY ACKNOWLEDGED. Look at the fact itself. (Num. xxi. 4-9.) Then at the inerence the acknowledgment of it supplies-Christ's entire belief in the Old Testament Scriptures.
II. AN INTIMATE CONNECTION CLEARLY REVEALED: 1. Each divinely appointed. 2. Each met a terrible necessity. 3. Benefit in each case secured by faith.
III. A GREAT NECESSITY INSISTED UPON. "Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.'
This must refer to His
death. "I, I be lifted up,
will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die. Christ frequently directed attention to the event. The types of old were significant of this. The prophecies included the same. The apostles preached the truth, and held it forth as the central fact of redemption.
Without His death we could have no life.
IV. A BLESSED PURPOSE CROWNING ALL. 1. A calamity from which we may be delivered. 2. A blessedness to which we may attain. 3. The means of deliverance. 4. The universality of the statement. 5. The only way of mercy and salvation. Bristol.
AN UNSUCCESSFUL MINISTRY. "For neither did his brethren believe in him."-John vii. 5.
WE have here two things.
I. THE UNSUCCESSFULNESS OF OUR SAVIOUR'S MINISTRY. We shall notice
Saviour's unsuccessful ministry suggest. (1.) That a man should not always be held responsible for the unreli
1. The causes of an unsuccessful ministry. (1.) Ignorance of Scripture truths. (2.) Lack of effective ex
mony between the minister's private life and public teaching. (4.) Absence of a prayerful spirit.
pression. (3.) Want of har-giousness of his family. (2.) A true ministry may be unsuccessful when the greatest success might be expected. (3.) Success is no proof of the true value of a ministry.
Christ knew the Scriptures. He spoke as never man spake. His private life was blameless. He went about doing good, and was mighty in prayer. Still his brethren did not believe in Him.
II. INFIDELITY EXISTING IN THE MOST FAVOURABLE CIRCUMSTANCES TO BELIEF.
This may be because of— 1. Prejudice. 2. Intellectual pride. 3. Hardness of heart. D. LEWIS.
2. The Lessons which our
Scripture and Science.
SUBJECT: Science in Relation to the Tempter of Eve.
It is not my intention just now to consider all the points of interest which are connected with the fall of man, though science throws considerable light upon some of them. The fact of the temptation and fall; the way in which it was brought about; its immediate effect upon the temporal and spiritual condition of Adam and Eve; the extent and the nature of its influence upon mankind in general, and especially upon the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and the physical conditions of the earth, must be left for future consideration. At present let us confine our attention to the tempter. Notice,
I. THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN, IN THE MOSAIC NARRATIVE, OF THE TEMPTER OF Eve.
1. The tempter was known, when the record was made, as the Nachash. 2. It was distinguished from all the beasts of the field by (a) belonging to a different class of animals, or beings, or (b) by being superior to any of them in intelligence, and especially in craft. It was remarkably skilful. The Hebrew word, 'arum, rendered subtil in our authorised version, denotes that which is high, from ram, lofty, or high. Hence
it refers to that which is lofty physically-a mountain; to that which is lofty mentally—(a) the proud, and hence, wicked; and, (¿) the wise or crafty. Symmachus and Aquila render it wicked-ravoûрyos, and the Targum of the Pseudo Jonathan has, " hakkim le bish, wise in reference to evil." The Septuagint, however, have opoviμúraтos, most prudent. Onkelos and Saadiah understood the word in the same sense, and the word is used in a good sense in Prov. xii. 16, 23; xiii. 16. In any case, we must conclude from the narrative, that the Nachash was a being, animal or otherwise, which was noted for its wickedness or for its wisdom.
3. The Nachash had also the gift of speech, if the narrative be one of an objective historic occurrence. If the tempter was seen, then, no doubt, words were heard. If, however, the narrative records what never was in an objective form, but was a mere subjective phenomenon, then the tempter was neither seen nor heard, nor did it belong to the animal creation; still was it capable of originating in the mind of Eve a train of thought.
4. The object of the creature mentioned as the tempter was to lead Eve to sin, and so determined was he to accomplish his vile purpose, that he misrepresented God, and made a false assertion, "Ye shall not surely die, for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof. . . ye shall be as gods." 5. God's heaviest curse came upon the tempter, the Nachash (ver. 14). 6. A change was apparently effected in the physical structure of the Nachash, as well as in its food. "Upon its belly" it was to go, and "dust" was to be its food all the days of its life (verse 14). 7. An inveterate hatred has existed ever since the fall of man, between mankind and the offspring of the tempter (verse 15). 8. The posterity of the tempter have to be destroyed by the seed of the woman, while the latter is to be injured by the former. In 1 Cor. xi. 3, St. Paul refers to the tempter as the Ophis, or serpent, evidently using the word which he found in the Septuagint as a translation of Nachash, ööpis. We may now consider,
II. SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR INTERPRETATIONS GIVEN OF THE MOSAIC NARRATIVE.
1. The first explanation supposes the narrative to be an allegory, the serpent denoting propensity to evil (Phillipson), or mere pleasure (Philo, Clemens Alex., &c.), or onesided and uninformed understanding (Bunsen). In this explanation the tree, the garden, and the serpent had no objective existence; they were mere symbols or pictorial representations of mental states, or modes, acts, or desires. Science has no fault to find with this explanation, for by it the whole narrative is removed from the field of science. There are great objections however to this interpretation, each having weight by itself, but all, when taken together, necessitate its rejection. Among these may be men
tioned (a) the fact that St. Paul speaks of the serpent (1 Cor. xi. 3) and the temptation, as if the narrative in Genesis was in every sense historic. (b) There is no reference, in any part of Scripture, to any allegorical record of the fall; (c) nor is there the slighest clue, in any part, to the meaning of the fable, if such it is. But the chief objection to this explanation is, (d) that it destroys the historic character of the whole Book of Genesis, and makes it equal, in point of fact, to "Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress," in which case Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Lot, Isaac and Jacob, the Deluge, the destruction of Sodom, the famine in Canaan, and the fame of Joseph, are fictitious names and occurrences, having no more reality than Pliable and Obstinate, Help and Worldly Wiseman, the Slough of Despond, and Doubting Castle. If the narrative of the fall be fictitious, such must be that of the creation, the biography of the sons of Adam, and all other events recorded in the book of Genesis, as there is not a word anywhere in the book to distinguish the allegorical from the historical.
The symbolical explanation seems to me to have originated in the difficulty of giving a rational interpretation to the narrative, combined with the tendency which characterized the early interpreters to find in every historic record a mystical meaning.
2. The second explanation to be mentioned, is that which supposes the tempter to be a literal serpent and nothing more. This explanation has arisen from (a) the absence, in the narrative, of any specific or definite reference to any being but the serpent, (b) from the absence of any hint as to the duality of the tempter, and (c) chiefly from the fact that the greater part of the curse came upon the animal. This would have been unjust, and therefore impossible, if the serpent had been the unconsenting instrument of another being.
Notwithstanding all this, the explanation must be rejected, because the narrative attributes to the serpent what is not found to belong to any mere animal, such as extraordinary skill or craft, the gift of reason and of speech, as well as a wicked desire to lead Eve into sin.
3. The third explanation supposes the whole narrative in Genesis to refer to this individual serpent alone as a duality-as "possessed of the devil." This serpent has become a demoniac, like the swine of the Gadarines. This reptile was an incarnation of the evil spirit. It was animated by Satan, as Baalam's ass was by the angel of the Lord. Milton represents the serpent as meeting Eve in her solitary walk and speaking to her. The reasoning woman being surprised at the speaking and reasoning power of the snake, asked the cause of it, and was told that the power was imparted by the tree of knowledge.
"To pluck and eat my fill
I spared not; for, such pleasure till that hour,
At feed or fountain, never had I found.