Friday, July 17, 2009


"They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb."
—Rev. xv. 3.

Moses and Jesus join in teaching me the psalm of the favoured children in God's family—a psalm not for the future only, when I shall be " safe from the frost and the snow, safe from the storm and the sun," but for the present, while the beast confronts me and entices me to worship his image. Moses cannot lead me so far as Jesus can; my Saviour and Master gives breadth and length and depth and height to the melody. But the one song is the precursor of the other. Moses points me forward to Christ, and Christ acknowledges and honours Moses; and I learn the doxologies both of the servant and of the Son.

The song of Moses is the song of emancipation. Broke are their nets, and thus escaped we: that is what it says. And it is the song of guidance. It celebrates the life of marching and encamping and marching again, over which the mercy and the wisdom and the omnipotence of the Lord preside. And it is the song of inheritance. Happy art thou, O Israel! the brave voice cried, on the borders of the land of brooks of water and wheat and barley and oil olive and honey. I hope I have learned, and am learning more fully and perfectly, such chords and octaves as these. Do I commemorate the goodness of the God, Who discovered me in the prison of shame and fear and helplessness and despair, and Who brought me forth by the promises of His Gospel and the bloodshedding of His Son and the mightiness of His Holy Spirit? Have I my testimony to bear to Him Who rules over the wilderness experiences of my history, and makes me glad according to the years wherein I have seen evil? Can I speak of the treasures of His wealthy land? The song of Moses is pregnant and rich.

But the song of the Lamb has new elements of delightsomeness and wonder. The crucified Lamb, as it had been slain, the cruel wounds healed, but the scars left as mementoes of the anguish and shame. The royal Lamb, in the midst of the throne, the Controller and the Lord of all. The Shepherd Lamb, feeding His flock and leading it to living fountains of waters. The conquering Lamb ; for these shall make war on Him, but He shall overcome them. Is He the theme of the hymns which entrance and satisfy me most? How He assumed my misery, and reaped the harvest I had sown. How He governs the" great world in my behoof, and directs and curbs the storms within my soul. How He conducts me by the best paths, and supplies my wants when I am hungry and athirst, and shelters me from every peril. How He is lionlike and soldierly, and will roll my strangling load from me, and will slay my craftiest and strongest enemies, and will rid me of the besetting sins which torment me most: Vicit Agnus noster, Eum sequamur.

I would complete the song of Moses the servant with the song of Jesus the Lamb.


"Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
—Ex. iii. 5.

I Have no need to go to the loneliness of Sinai to meet with God. I find the holy ground much nearer home. But I wonder whether I put my shoes from off my feet.

He reveals Himself to me in His written Word. It is His sanctuary. By its agency my deepest life is created, quickened, sustained. Listening to it the saints have heard the very voice of their Lord ; and it is associated with the faith and purity and joy of many centuries of Christians. But do I never raise a laugh by my grotesque and frivolous use of the words of Scripture ? And, whenever I open the Book, do I remember that God has breathed the Spirit of Life into its chapters and verses? Mine is culpable levity.

He reveals Himself, also, in the newborn character of His people. They are temples of the Holy Ghost, as the bush was which burned and was not consumed. Their aim is that the Father's will may be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Their desire is to reflect His likeness as they move among their fellows. But because they do it with human vacillations, and because it is not difficult to detect in them shortcoming and fault, I am afraid that at times I make light of their godliness, and I forget that thus I am dishonouring religion itself. I should hold the saints in higher regard.

He reveals Himself in the history of my land, as truly as ever He did in the history of Israel. In it the devout heart will trace His power, His wisdom, His stern hatred of sin, His overflowing goodness. But have I not winged my shafts of easy ridicule at some of the greatest names of the past? Have I not been slow to see the heroism and the consecration of which they are the summary? It is as if one should" peep and botanise upon his mother's grave," or should detect no holy flame in the thorn-tree of Horeb.

Best of all, He reveals Himself in Christ. But if Christ brings Him close to me, He teaches me fresh reasons for standing in awe of Him. His life shows me what God is—spotless, righteous, faithful, unchanging in antagonism against sin. And His Cross has a more impressive message still. Here are God's infinite gentleness and shoreless mercy ; and, side by side with these, here are God's abhorrence of my iniquity, and His unconquerable justice, and His rigorous determination to have done with my evil. He is holy, holy, holy, even in the brightest and sweetest manifestation of His grace. Yet I do not always worship Him, disclosed to me in His Son, " with trembling hope and penitential tears."

Not a day passes that I am not standing in the courts of His house. Not a place can I visit where the Spirit of glory and of God may not overshadow me. I pray for tenfold more thoughtfulness and adoration and humility.


"For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
—Acts iv. 20.

For two reasons I profess to be afraid of religious speech.

In the first place, I am disposed to assert that it becomes readily a thing of course and custom, a glib utterance of the tongue, shallow, insincere, mechanical, almost if not quite empty of vital significance. No doubt, there is a sad possibility of my learning to traffic in the false commerce of a truth unfelt. I may be professional and perfunctory, when there ought to be behind my words an emotion which pulses and palpitates and will not be held in check. I may even deceive myself into the belief that I am in living union with Christ Jesus, although I have never touched the hem of His garment, simply because I have such proficiency in saying Lord! Lord! But it cannot be right to discontinue and prohibit what is good, merely because it may be abused. What a world of desirable and noble things I must forego, if I make this my consistent and universal rule!

But then again, I contend that there must be reserves in true religion, secret and hidden places, experiences that cannot be repeated, joys unspeakable and full of glory, shrines which are to be trodden by no human foot. I am right. For every genuinely Christian heart God has His own whisper, which it is unlawful to publish from the housetops. Let me thank Him if I am conversant in any measure with these unrecitable communions and sanctities, and if He bids me come apart into His Paradise and tarry alone with Himself there. But there are other ingredients than these in the faith and life of His children—things commoner, and more elementary, and capable of explanation to many. And I must never make the intimacies of the Holy of holies a plea for declining to tell men about the Beautiful Gate. If the top of the mountain is veiled in the Shekinah-cloud, its base is near their homes and accessible to their feet, and I must bid them climb till they too know the ecstasies of the summit.

If I have had such experience of Christ's grace as the apostles had, I shall not be able to maintain silence. Suppose that the Good Shepherd's voice, " sword-like sweet," has sung to me,—

It told of rude disgrace;
And of an anguished face
It told, methought; and of a wounded Friend;
Of pain it told, and shame;
Of love that overcame
Through simple skill of loving to the end:

shall I not forsake my own strains and stories for this " story sad and plain"? And, having mastered the Shepherd's one and only song, must I not echo and proclaim its music wherever I go?


"And I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam."
—Mic. vi. 4.

I Am interested in the inclusion of Miriam's name. Long generations after her death, God commemorates her deeds no less than those of her great brothers. For in His Kingdom there is neither male nor female, and the woman is as essential and as helpful as the man. How it illustrates His forgiveness, too, that He recalls about Miriam only that which is good ! There was a mournful episode in her history, when she spake against Moses, and when, for a little while, the frightful scourge of the leprosy fell upon her. But this is forgotten, and nothing is recounted except her brave leadership of Israel. Who is so liberal-hearted as God, and so rich in magnanimity ? My sins He writes on the sand, and the flowing waters of His mercy and grace soon obliterate the indictment. My services, small as they are in comparison with what He deserves, He writes on the undecaying page of His Book of Remembrance, and they live abidingly in His thought and heart.

What gives Miriam a right to the immortality of Moses and Aaron?

Her patriotism does. The fires of an unquenchable affection for her afflicted countrymen burned in her breast. When, after his forty years' silence and schooling in Midian, Moses reappeared as their deliverer, perhaps it helped to gain him credence and welcome that, during his absence, his sister had been preparing them to receive the word of Jehovah. She could not suffer their wrongs in patience. She hated the tyrant with righteous hatred. And I, too, would learn the lofty and steadfast patriotism which plans and strives and labours to emancipate my land from every evil force that holds it in vassalage.

But behind the patriotism is her religion. On the Arabian shores of the Red Sea, with Pharaoh's vaunting pride for ever humbled, and with his chariots sunk in the pitiless waves, it is to the Lord that she ascribes all the glory. She cherishes the firmest faith in His presence and might and championship of His people. And is not that the best love of country which discerns Him standing always behind the shadow and keeping watch above His own? I would summon my neighbours to behold Him. I would urge them to crown Him with honour and praise.

And, added to patriotism and religion, is her queenly endowment of poetry and song. It was she who led forth the maidens of Israel with timbrels and dances, she who taught them the majestic hymn of victory, she who gave their lips and their souls the notes and chords of triumphant thanksgiving. What a faculty the singer's is, and what a constraining and impelling power the singer wields ! If these are mine in any degree, God help me to use them for Him—to wed great thoughts to melodious words, and to peal them forth on His behalf. Then, like Miriam, I shall take rank with lawgiver and priest.


" Who is this Son of Man?"
—John xii. 34.

The name puzzled the Jews; but Christ loved and employed it beyond all others. I gather that He intends me to have a special delight in its meaning and message.

It rings forth the music of His nearness to me. His was an everlasting past; but He has identified Himself now with my changeful and indigent lot. He descends to my level, that He may taste my weakness and my weariness and the manifold troubles of my life. He clothes His glory in my nature, that He may have a true body and a reasonable soul to offer on the Cross for my redemption. He is close of kin with me, that He may be my pattern of faith and courage in temptation and sorrow. He is the Son of Man, a child of my own family, that it may be easy for me to believe in Him with my whole heart.

The name proclaims the music, no less, of his height above me. Something singular, unique, unparalleled, clings to One Who has to assure me that beyond question He is enrolled in my death- stricken race. Through the ages men had succeeded each other, and without exception they were tarnished and erring men. The taint was universal; the poison ran in the veins of every one. But then, in the midst of a sin-paralysed world, this Son of Man appeared, perfect in beauty and far-shining in grace. Ah! He is the very God in my flesh; and therefore He meets and overcomes my saddest and deepest and utterest necessity.

In His name I hear the music, too, of His spacious and unfettered salvation. Not of this nationality or of that is He Son ; He is Son of Man everywhere, under all skies and in all conditions. He is dear to the unchanging East and the enterprising West and the frozen North and the burning South. Many differences separate them among themselves ; but with one consent they turn to Him, and in Him they have a centre and a home. Wherever lost sheep and lost men wander to their undoing, He is the Redeemer suitable and sufficient. In His pardon and fellowship and holiness is there not ample room for me?

And His name sounds out the music of the new heavens and the new earth over which He will reign for ever. One day I shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power. One day He will give my beleaguered soul its final and consummate deliverance from the enemies that have survived so long, and He will invite me to enter into His joy. One day His monarchy of purity and love will be supreme; and the things that hurt and annoy, that corrupt and degrade, will not be found in all His holy mountain. O day of days, and goal of goals, to which He points my heart and leads my feet!

This Son of Man: none on my earth., and none in the heaven of heavens, can be compared with Him. Let me bring forth my diadem to crown His brow.