« PreviousContinue »
assuredly they who serve him in time, shall dwell with him in eternity. Surely none who hear these records will ever be afraid of being singular, or of bearing persecution for righteousness' sake. No: from henceforth every soul should be emboldened to “ confess Christ before men,” and to “ cleave unto him with full purpose of heart.”] 5. His faithfulness in fulfilling his word
[Here was a strong temptation to rescind his promises: and indeed, because of the appearance of so doing, God says, “ Ye shall know my breach of promise a." But the promise was not made to that people, that they at all events should inherit the land of Canaan: it was made to Abraham, that his seed should inherit it: and, both on this and a former occasion, when God threatened to destroy the present generation, he offered to raise up a nation from the loins of Moses, and to give the promised land to them.
God fulfilled his word in every point: and Joshua appealed to the whole nation of Israel for the truth of thise; as did Solomon many hundred years after him. None therefore need to be afraid of trusting in God: for“ he is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repente." Let the whole world be assured, that they may safely rely on him; that “not one jot or tittle of his word shall ever fail;" that “faithful is He who hath promised;" and that “what he hath promised he is able also to perform.” Be it known therefore,
“ that they who trust in him shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end?."]
6. His power to accomplish his own sovereign will and pleasure
[The people had expressed their fears that their little ones would fall a prey to the warlike inhabitants of Canaan. Now, says God, "those very children, who ye said would be a prey, even them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised 6." Weak as ye judge them to be, I will give them the victory; and not an enemy shall be able to stand before them.
Hear this, ye drooping, doubting Christians! let the whole world hear it : yea, let it never be forgotten, that “God ordaineth strength in babes and sucklings; " that "his strength is perfected in their weakness;" and that through him the weakest of us shall be "more than conquerors." Who weaker than Paul in his own apprehension? “I have not,” says he, “a sufficiency even to think a good thought:" yet who stronger
ver. 12. with Exod. xxxii. 10. c Josh. xxiii. 14. d i Kings viii. 56. e Numb. xxiii. 19. f Isai. xlv. 17.
& ver. 31.
in reality? “I can do all things,” saith he, “ through Christ who strengtheneth meh.”. Let the weak then say, “ I am strong!:" " let the feeble be as David, and the house of David be as the angel of the Lordk."] APPLICATION
(Behold now this glory of the Lord ! see how it shines throughout this mysterious dispensation! see his condescension in hearing prayer—his mercy in forbearing vengeance—his justice in punishing sin—his goodness in rewarding virtue— his faithfulness in fulfilling his word—and his power to execute his sovereign will and pleasure! Let the whole earth contemplate it: let all transmit the knowledge of it to those around them; and assist in spreading it to the remotest heathen: let all expect the time when this view of God shall be universal through the world, and all shall give him the glory of his immutable perfections.
And, whilst we view the glory of God in his past works, let us remember what will be the final issue of all his dispensations. His glory will hereafter shine in still brighter splendour. When his answers to the prayers of all his people shall be known, how marvellous will his condescension and grace appear! When the sins of the whole world shall be made manifest, how shall we be filled with wonder at his long-suffering and forbearance ! How tremendous will his justice and severity be found, when millions of impenitent sinners are cast headlong into the bottomless abyss! And when his obedient people shall be exalted to thrones of glory, how will his goodness and mercy be admired and adored! Then also will his truth and faithfulness be seen in the exact completion of every promise he has ever given; and his power and might be gratefully acknowledged by all whom he has redeemed, sanctified, and saved.
This then is certain, that in every human being he will be glorified. But the question is, How will he be glorified in me? will it be in my salvation or condemnation? In answering this question aright we are all deeply interested : nor will it be difficult to answer it, provided we inquire what our real character is. Do we resemble the unbelieving and rebellious Israelites, or those believing spies who “ followed the Lord fully?" Vast was the difference between them, and consequently the discrimination will be easy. The Lord grant
so judge ourselves now, that we may not be judged of the Lord” in that awful day!]
that we may
h Phil. iv. 13.
i Joel üi. 10.
k Zech. xii. 8.
FOLLOWING THE LORD FULLY. Numb. xiv. 24. But my servant Caleb, because he had another
spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.
THE fewness of those who shall finally be saved is strongly declared in the Holy Scriptures; yet they who venture to suggest such an idea, are deemed uncharitable in the extreme. But it is not owing to a want of mercy in God that any perish : it is utterly their own fault: God delights to bless his faithful and obedient people; but the unbelieving and disobedient he will eternally condemn. The numbers that are found in either of these classes make no difference with respect to him: if there were only one or two ungodly, they alone should perish, and all others should be saved: but if a whole nation be ungodly, and only one or two of them be observant of the divine commands, those individuals alone shall find acceptance with him, and all the rest shall meet with their deserved doom. None but Noah and his family escaped the deluge: none but Lot and his daughters were delivered from the judgments which came upon Sodom and Gomorrha: thus, in the
passage before us, we are told that Caleb alone, together with Joshua, was permitted to enter into the promised land, because they alone had followed the Lord fully.
To elucidate this record, and to bring it home to our own hearts, we shall shew, I. When we may be said to follow the Lord fully
The whole nation of Israel might be considered as followers of the Lord, because they had given up themselves to him as his redeemed people, and depended on him for guidance and protection. In the same manner the whole body of Christians may be called followers of Christ, because they profess to have been redeemed by him from the far sorer bondage of sin and death, and because they look to him, in profession at least, to guide them by his Spirit, to keep them by his grace, and to bring them in safety to the heavenly Canaan. But as the great body of the Jewish nation deceived themselves to their ruin, so, it is to be feared, the greater part of the Christian world will ultimately be disappointed of their hopes. To follow the Lord will be to but little purpose, unless we follow him fully. Now this implies, that we follow him,
1. With unreserved cheerfulness
[The Israelites at large were pleased with God's service no longer than while their inclinations were gratified to the full. As soon as ever they were called to exercise any self-denial, or to suffer a little for his sake, they began to murmur, and repented that they had taken his yoke upon them. Especially when they heard the report of the spies respecting the power of their enemies, they proposed to cast off God's yoke altogether, and to return to their former masters in Egypt. But Caleb “had another spirit with him;" he considered himself as altogether at God's disposal, and cheerfully obeyed him, as well in circumstances of difficulty and danger, as in the ways that were more pleasing to flesh and blood.
Now this disposition characterizes every faithful follower of Christ. It is not for us to choose our own way, but to follow the directions of our Divine Master. No commandment of his must be esteemed grievous; nothing must be called “ a hard saying;" but we must cheerfully conform ourselves to every part of his revealed will, and account his service to be perfect freedom.] 2. With undaunted resolution
[Caleb had seen with his own eyes what difficulties he should have to encounter in subduing the land of Canaan; yet was he not in the least dismayed: yea, his whole nation were so offended with his fidelity to God, that they gave orders that he should be stoned to death. But nothing could intimidate hinn: he knew the will of God, and he was determined to execute it at all events.
Thus the Christian whose heart is right with God, is not deterred by any difficulties from proceeding in the path of duty: he knows that the world will be against him; and he often finds his greatest enemies to be those of his own household: yet he determines to go forward, and to obey God rather than man. Like the Hebrew youths, if he behold a furnace prepared for his destruction, he will still hold fast his integrity, and submit to death itself rather than violate his duty to his God.] 3. With unshaken affiance
[The report of the spies was doubtless very discouraging. The people whom they had seen were of most gigantic stature: the cities in which they dwelt, were walled up to heaven: and it is probable that there was a dreadful pestilence at that time ravaging “ the land, and swallowing up the inhabitants thereof." But Caleb had the promise of Jehovah to rest upon; and therefore he knew that he could not fail of success; yea, he was assured that, however numerous or mighty his enemies were, they should be “ bread for the Lord's people,” and be as easily crushed and devoured by them as a piece of bread.
In this also the faithful follower of Christ will resemble Caleb: he knows that Omnipotence is engaged in his behalf; and he rests securely on the word of God. If his corruptions were yet stronger than they are, and the world, with the confederate hosts of hell, were tenfold more powerful, he would not fear; “ he knows in whom he has believed,” and is persuaded that “He who has promised is able also to perform."]
The character of those who follow the Lord fully, being thus delineated, we shall proceed to notice, II. The blessedness of those who do so
Here also the history of Caleb will serve as our guide. The text informs us, that he received, 1. The approbation of his God
[God confessed him before all Israel as “his servant.” What an honour was this, to be thus distinguished by Jehovah himself! And shall not every faithful servant of Jehovah be thus distinguished? Shall he not have an inward witness of the Spirit testifying of his adoption into God's family, and enabling him with confidence to cry, Abba, Father? Will not God“ shed abroad his love in the hearts” of his people, and “ seal them with the Holy Spirit of promise, as the earnest of their eternal inheritance ?" And though no authentic declaration shall be made to others respecting his state, yet shall his very enemies be constrained to reverence him in their hearts, even though, like Herod, they should persecute him unto death.] 2. The completion of all his wishes
[Doubtless Caleb earnestly desired an inheritance in the land of Canaan: and the very mountain on which his feet had trodden was assigned to him as his portion by God's express appointment. But he surely looked beyond an earthly inheritance: nor can we doubt but that he is distinguished in the Canaan above as much as he was in the earthly Canaan.
And what does the faithful Christian desire? What is the great object of his ambition, but to inherit that good land which the Lord his God has promised him? And shall he come short of it? Will not God preserve him unto his heavenly