The LORD also spoke to Joshua, saying,…
How illustrative of the way of life, the facilities grace has given to sensible and alarmed sinners to flee from the wrath to come!
I. In the gospel of Christ is found nothing to impede or discourage an immediate application for salvation, BUT THE WAY IS SET BEFORE MEN UNDER DIRECTIONS SO PLAIN AND OBVIOUS THAT HARDLY ANY ONE CAN ERR, EXCEPT THROUGH WILFUL IGNORANCE AND DETERMINED REBELLION. Faithful ministers are designed to answer the end of directing-posts; they are to stand in byways and corners, to distinguish the right way from the wrong, and thereby, if possible, to prevent any from proceeding to their own destruction. Mercy has placed them on the road to life purposely to remind sinners of their danger, to direct the perplexed, and to admonish the careless. How important is simplicity in a matter that involves in it the concerns of life and death! What if the line of inscription, "To the City of Refuge," had been in any other language than the one generally understood? and what if gospel ministers express themselves in a way that few only can reap the benefit of their instructions? They ruin more than they save, and cannot avoid a fearful charge in the day when every work will be brought into judgment.
II. Next, consider THE REQUIREMENTS MADE OF THE MAN WHO HAD OCCASION TO AVAIL HIMSELF OF THE PROVISION APPOINTED; and as if having witnessed the act of slaughter, follow him to the gates of the city. His first and obvious duty, and that to which necessity compelled, was to leave the dead and run for his life, to rise from his bleeding neighbour and betake himself, with all possible haste, to the nearest refuge. This was to be voluntary, for no one could compel him. Another requirement was that he who had set out should make all possible haste till he had got within the walls of the city; for security was not in the way, but at the end; not while escaping, but when refuged. And what shall be said of them who, professing to flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in Christ, think neither of danger nor security, but are taken up, as their chief concern, with the pleasure and pursuits of the world?
III. THE INTERNAL CONSTITUTION OF THESE CITIES, like the way to them, and the requisitions made of those for whose benefit they were instituted, INSTRUCTS US IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF MANY EVANGELICAL TRUTHS. Let us enter for examination, or rather consider ourselves as needing the security they give. Refuge was not allowed till after judicial investigation. They were no asylum for murderers, but for those guilty of manslaughter only. In this the legal refuge came short of that the gospel sets before us: it was wisely and necessarily so; for no typical institutions could be ordained contrary to public justice and security, or that would have perpetually endangered the life and peace of society. Herein the pre-eminence of the gospel appears, and the infinite merit of Christ's blood, which has efficacy to atone for the worst of crimes. The government under which these cities were placed must not be forgotten; they were given to the Levites, and though distinct from those they were to inhabit, yet they were numbered among them. This denoted an appointment of mercy, namely, that all the privileges peculiar to them, the security, residence, and provision there afforded, were all the fruit of priestly merits, and under the regulation of sacerdotal dominion. The streams of mercy from Christ flow to sinners through the prevalence of His atoning sacrifice and the exercise of His availing intercession. Again, safety was nowhere but within the city — not only was the manslayer required to flee to it, but to remain there the life of the high priest. Expressive appointment! Who out of Christ can be safe? One cannot but remark the deficiency of the type, as to the liberty as well as security which every believer obtains through Christ. As long as the high priest lived the slayer of blood was deprived of liberty beyond the bounds of the city. With all the mercy there provided, it must have been no little inconvenience to have been compelled so suddenly to give up connections, occupations, inheritance, and family for so uncertain a period, Nevertheless we are left to admire the wisdom of the Divine procedure, in that regard to the ends of public justice and social right, ever observed in even those institutions which were principally designed to set forth the unbounded grace of Christ. While the life of the high priest typified the security of Christ, the death of the high priest was to express the redemption of the forfeited possession. "After the death of the high priest, the slayer shall return to the land of his possession." His life was a blessing that protected the slayer from the avenger, but his death unmistakably greater, for that secured liberty with life. The death of Christ has not only availed to deliver us from all the penalties of a broken covenant, burro interest us in all the positive blessings of the new; not only to save from all the sorrows of guilt, but to restore to us all the joys of innocence.
Parallel VersesKJV: The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,