I. IF A MAN'S PROFESSION IS FALSE TO HIS CHARACTER, THIS WILL BE MADE MANIFEST BY THE HABITS OF HIS LIFE. The Ephraimite who denied his tribal relation was betrayed by his dialectic pronunciation. Thus Peter was convicted of falsehood (Matthew 26:73). It matters little what we say if our conduct belies our words. No man can ultimately conceal his character; it will come out in his countenance, it will colour his speech, it will shape his action. If a man would completely suppress his character, he must destroy it, because while it exists it must obey its nature, which is to be the source of all conduct. You cannot quench a volcano by building over its crater, nor stay the flow of a stream by walling it in. Our true nature, whether it be good or bad, must reveal itself
(1) in great critical epochs, when it can endure no restraint; or
(2) in casual accidents, when we are off our guard and do not consider the occasion sufficiently important to demand much concern; or
(3) in the general course and colour of our life (Matthew 7:16).
II. SHALL SUPERFICIAL SIGNS MAY INDICATE GREAT FUNDAMENTAL DISTINCTIONS. The test of the "Shibboleth" has been much misunderstood, as though it were an instance of the importance which is sometimes unduly given to mere trivial distinctions. The test was simply a means of discovering the tribal relations of men. The Gileadites cared nothing for the difference of pronunciation in itself. They simply used it as a means for determining a really important point - the truth or falsehood of the profession of those who said they were not men of Ephraim. The same mistake was involved in Gibbon's famous sneer about the great division of Christendom on the question of a diphthong. It was not a diphthong, but the fundamental truth of the perfect Divinity of Christ that Athanasius and his friends were contending with the Arians about, and the use of the diphthong was simply a convenient form in which to bring the question to a definite point. So the recent controversies about vestments have been ridiculed as though they were questions of "ecclesiastical millinery," while both parties know quite well that these outside and apparently trivial differences are the signs of fundamental questions concerning priestly authority and sacramental grace.
1. We must beware of judging of the magnitude of a question by the comparative insignificance of its external indications.
2. We must, nevertheless, be careful not to assume that trivial external distinctions are signs of deep and important differences until we have proved the fact. We may erect the test of a "Shibboleth" to separate people who have no such fundamental distinctions as those of the men who had been true to Jephthah and the men who had enviously opposed him. The danger is that we should thus magnify the importance of the "Shibboleth" itself, and so become narrow and sectarian. - A.
Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth:
(Marcus Dods, D. D.)
(L. H. Wiseman, M. A.)
I. LOOK WE NOW FOR THE VAIN SHIBBOLETHS OF MAN, those heavy burdens which are laid on men's shoulders, and laid too often by those who will not themselves touch them with the tips of their fingers.
1. "I believe that I am forgiven?' This is one of the unfair shibboleths required by man. Seldom a saint departs without sight of the broad seal of God's forgiveness. But he may be afraid to take it. Still he is forgiven. To be forgiven is of the first importance. To know we are forgiven is of importance too; but not indispensable.
2. "I am a member of this Church." Here is another human shibboleth. The Lord will not ask what earthly Church — so it be but a branch of Christ's vine — a soul belongs to. "Come with us and we will do thee good," is the utmost length to which our invitation may go.
3. "I understand Scripture in the literal sense. I agree to no new interpretation. I admit no light from science." These requirements form another human shibboleth; this shutting up of the Bible from that free, and full, and fair inquiry, which, if it were afraid of it, it would be well nigh worthless. Having first prayed reverently, "Lead me not, O Father, into temptation," a man may wear away his Bible by the daily attrition of diligent study; for it contains what no study can wear down — the very truth of God. Such a reader Christ smiles upon as his fingers turn over the sacred page. For such a man, after God's own heart, the Holy Spirit will strike forth new discoveries; will lead such an one by still waters, and feed him in pleasant pastures, far away from the rivers of Babylon; will guide such an one into all truth, and save his soul in peace.
II. THERE ARE ALSO SOME TRUE SHIBBOLETHS OF GOD, WHICH WE MUST PRONOUNCE WITH A FULL, ROUND UTTERANCE, OR WE ARE LOST.
1. Repentance. "If I were to die in the pulpit," said Philip Henry, "I would desire to die preaching repentance; and if I were to die out of the pulpit, I would desire to die practising repentance." "Except ye repent," says the Holy Spirit, "ye shall all likewise perish." Can we say, "shibboleth"? Have we repented? Or is it only the "sibboleth" of a worldly sorrow?
2. Another shibboleth of God is faith in Christ. Not the form of words, "I believe"; but the diligent, faithful life; the earnest, converted soul.
3. We must believe the Bible to be inspired. Reverently and freely interpreting it, we must take it from God's gracious hand, and follow out its leading as the clue to salvation. Else it will hang like a millstone about our necks, and sink us to perdition, 4, We must learn the true language of heaven, the true ways of holiness. We must leave the lispings, formalities, and affectations of the world, and say, "Shibboleth," as the angels and spirits of the just, and the just who yet live upon earth say it, and have said it before.
(S. B. James, M. A.)
1. In tracing out the religion of sectarianism, or bigotry, I find that a great deal of it comes from wrong education in the home circle. There are parents who do not think it wrong to caricature and jeer the peculiar forms of religion in the world, and denounce other denominations.
2. I think sectarianism and bigotry also rise from too great prominence of any one denomination in a community. All the other denominations are wrong, and his denomination is right, because his denomination is the most wealthy, or the most popular, and it is "our" Church, and "our " religious organisation, and "our" choir, and "our" minister, and the man tosses his head, and wants other denominations to know their places.
3. Bigotry is often the child of ignorance. You seldom find a man with large intellect who is a bigot. It is the man who thinks he knows a great deal, but does not. That man is almost always a bigot. There is nothing that will so soon kill bigotry as sunshine — God's sunshine. So I have set before you what I consider to be the causes of bigotry. What are some of the baleful effects?
1. It cripples investigation. You are wrong, and I am right, and that ends it. No taste for exploration, no spirit of investigation.
2. Another great damage done by the sectarianism and bigotry of the Church is, that it disgusts people with the Christian religion. Now, the Church of God was never intended for a war barrack.
3. Again, bigotry and sectarianism do great damage in the fact that they hinder the triumph of the gospel. Oh! how much wasted ammunition! how many men of splendid intellect have given their whole life to controversial disputes, when, if they had given their life to something practical, they might have been vastly useful! A quarrel in a beehive is a strange sight. I go out sometimes in the summer and I find two beehives, and these two beehives are in a quarrel. I come near enough, not to be stung, but I come just near enough to hear the controversy, and one beehive says, "That field of clover is the sweetest," and another beehive says, "That field of clover is the sweetest." I come in between them, and I say, "Stop this quarrel; if you like that field of clover best, go there; if you like that field of clover best, go there; but let me tell you that that hive which gets the most honey is the best hive!" So I come out between the Churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. One denomination of Christians says, "That field of Christian doctrine is best," and another says, "This field of Christian doctrine is best." Well, I say, "Go where you get the most honey." That is the best Church which gets the most honey of Christian grace for the heart, and the most honey of Christian usefulness for the life. Besides that, if you want to build up any denomination, you will never build it up by trying to pull some other down. In England a law was made against the Jew. England thrust back the Jew, and thrust down the Jew, and declared that no Jew should hold official position. What came of it? Were the Jews destroyed? Was their religion overthrown? No. Intolerance never yet put down anything. Now, what is the remedy for sectarianism? I think we may overthrow the severe sectarianism and bigotry in our hearts, and in the Church also, by realising that all the denominations of Christians have yielded noble institutions and noble men. There is nothing that so stirs my soul as this thought. Moreover, we may also overthrow the feelings of severe sectarianism by joining other denominations in Christian work. Perhaps I might more forcibly illustrate this truth by Calling your attention to an incident which took place some years ago. One Monday morning, at about two o'clock, while her nine hundred passengers were sound asleep dreaming of home, the steamer Atlantic crashed into Mars Head. Five hundred souls in ten minutes landed in eternity! Oh, what a scene! Agonised men and women running up and down the gangways, and clutching for the rigging, and the plunge of the helpless steamer, threw two continents into terror. But see this brave quartermaster pushing out with the life-line until he gets to the rock; and see these fishermen gathering up the shipwrecked, and taking them into the cabins and wrapping them in the flannels snug and warm; and see that minister of the gospel, with three other men, getting into a lifeboat, and pushing out for the wreck, pulling away across the surf, and pulling away until they saved one more man, and then getting back with him to the shore. Can these men ever forget that night? And can they ever forget their companionship in peril, companionship in struggle, companionship in awful catastrophe and rescue? Never! Never! Well, our world has gone into a worse shipwreck. Sin drove it on the rocks. The old ship has lurched and tossed in the tempests of six thousand years. Out with the life-line! I do not care what denomination carries it. Out with the life-boat! I do not care what denomination rows it. Side by side, in the memory of common hardships, and common trials, and common prayers, and common tears, let us be brothers for ever.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)I. SOCIAL LIFE HAS ITS SHIBBOLETHS. Goodness of heart and purity of life and language are not always the tests of admission to what is termed choice society. Anything before that. With some it is education. How much do you know? With others it is elegance of manners and accomplishments. We do not admit awkward people to our company. And some estimate the worth of their neighbours by the length of their purses. How much are you worth? With multitudes dress is the countersign. The idol of fashion is set up, and we are expected to bow down daily and offer devout homage. In many assemblies the garment decides the position. One of our great generals, it is said, went modestly to one of our fashionable churches on a great funeral occasion. Upon his applying for a place, it transpired that the plain cloak which wrapped his person was barely sufficient to gain him a seat inside the door. It was almost literally, "Stand thou there." During the service the cloak fell back far enough to reveal the mark upon the shoulders. Then came most profuse apologies, with the pressing invitation, "Come up higher, and sit thou in a good place."
II. RELIGIOUS LIFE HAS ITS SHIBBOLETHS, and there is no place where the overbearing requirements are more unseemly or mere to be deprecated. The spirit of Christianity, as taught by its Divine Author, is a spirit of kindness, tenderness, forbearance. It commends and enjoins the charity that beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things. In the gospel we are to make allowance for each other's differences, and bear with each other's infirmities, and bid Godspeed to each other's efforts. There are shibboleths which are legitimate, and essential to the maintenance of vital truth and goodness among men. There are principles which constitute the very foundation stones of God's temple. These are to be defended and guarded without compromise. It is not our measuring line which is thus applied; it is not our standard set up; it is not our speech to which conformity is required. It is the pronunciation which God demands. And yet it becomes us to be extremely cautious in the pressing of the pass-words, lest we should substitute our own pronunciation for God's and shut out any of the children of the kingdom. "Take heed lest ye offend one of these little ones." There are different phases of the same doctrine; there are various explanations and interpretations which do not invalidate the truth.
(Goyn Talmage.)1 Corinthians 12:13). Our belief is far less a matter of free-will than we imagine. If we are sincere in regard to truth we must believe as we do, and there is no ground for reviling. And as oaks grow best alone, and as vines need a standard, and as some flowers like a day with three quarters shadow, and others want all the sunshine that heaven can pour upon them; as all the fruits in Covent Garden Market to-morrow will be better than any one of them; as all herbs are good in their place, sweet and bitter, mellow and sharp; and as some love Rembrandt's pictures with their deep shadows, and some Raphael's, with their floods of glory and hosts of angels, and no great gallery could be complete if you leave out any of these great masters: so I think we must make up our minds that any Church which can include all these diversities of thinking and believing is better than those which leave any out, and breed "in and in," like the chickens in Hawthorne's story that were so careful of the separateness of their breed that there were only two of them left in the end, and they could do nothing but croak. We cannot always think alike or believe alike in the most sacred relations that men and women can sustain to each other in their homes; and we ought not to look for any finer harmony than the holy spirit of well-mated Christian people, least of all in the Churches where this bond of fellowship is maintained, against all comers, that every man may make something good enough for heaven out of the nature that God has given him and the life he has to live, and that the best form in the Churches and in the nation is that in which men can manage wisely and well to govern themselves.
(R. Collyer, D. D.)
PeopleAbdon, Amalekites, Ammonites, Elon, Ephraimites, Gileadites, Hillel, Ibzan, Jephthah, Manasseh, Manassites, Zebulun
PlacesAijalon, Bethlehem, Gilead, Jordan River, Pirathon, Zaphon
TopicsBody, Buried, Cities, Death, Died, Dieth, Gilead, Gileadite, Jephthah, Judge, Judged, Led, Mizpeh, Rest, Six, Town
Outline1. The Ephraimites, quarrelling with Jephthah, are slain by the Gileadites
7. Jephthah dies
8. Ibzan, who had thirty sons, and thirty daughters
11. and Elon
13. and Abdon, who had forty sons, and thirty nephews, judge Israel
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJudges 12:1-7
LibraryJesus Calls Four Fishermen to Follow Him.
(Sea of Galilee, Near Capernaum.) ^A Matt. IV. 18-22; ^B Mark I. 16-20; ^C Luke V. 1-11. ^a 18 And walking ^b 16 And passing along by the sea of Galilee [This lake is a pear-shaped body of water, about twelve and a half miles long and about seven miles across at its widest place. It is 682 feet below sea level; its waters are fresh, clear and abounding in fish, and it is surrounded by hills and mountains, which rise from 600 to 1,000 feet above it. Its greatest depth is about 165 feet], he [Jesus] …
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel
The Essential Unity of the Kingdom.
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