Sermons by the Monday Club
And he wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.…
I. THE FITNESS OF MARKING LIFE'S CHANGES BY A SPECIAL RECOGNITION OF DEPENDENCE UPON GOD AND OBLIGATION TO HIM. With Israel it was a time of transition, involving triumph, gain, a new and long-desired possession. At such times, men of the world are apt to think only of themselves and their good fortune. It was not so with Israel. This is their first pause on entering the promised land. And they trust God to protect them, while they use it to own Him as having brought them thither. With solemn ceremony they put themselves afresh into covenant relations with Him. Supposing ourselves to be changing our residence or occupation, to be entering a new place or state of responsibility, to be keeping a birthday or other anniversary — how becoming it would be to make it a time of re-dedication to God! So of a youth passing from school to business, entering the marriage state, going out from the old home, and taking up for himself a life's work. Our religious faith should make it natural to do this.
II. THE VALUE OF SPECIAL MEANS TO DEEPEN THE SENSE OF OBLIGATION TO GOD. There are such ordinary means as the daily reading of the Bible, attendance on the public ordinances of God's house, Christian conversation, giving heed to the voices of conscience and the Divine Spirit. Many things remind us of duty and dependence. And yet it is easy to forget. Ordinary means lose a measure of their power, save as they are reinforced now and then by those that are special and extraordinary. It was once more common than we fear it now is for persons entering the Christian life to do it with a solemnly-written covenant, to be recalled and renewed in after months and years. Other occasions were signalised in a similar way. On the day of the birth of the late Dr. Bethune, his father solemnly dedicated him to God in writing — an act more than once repeated. Churches have had their times of renewing covenant vows by rising in a mutual pledge to each other, and a common re-dedication to God. I have seen the record of "an holy covenant entered into, and renewed with God, by ye Church of Christ in concord, upon a day of fasting and prayer, set apart for that purpose, July 11, 1776," bearing the signature of Rev. William Emerson (then pastor) and sixty-one others. Religious revivals have been begun and prolonged by such means. Piety that is from the heart readily approves them. It makes glad use, not only of common, but of special, helps to fidelity and growth in godly living.
III. THE WISDOM OF HEEDING ALL GOD HAS TOLD US OF OUR OBLIGATION TO HIM, AND OF THE PERIL OF CASTING IT OFF. Joshua "read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings." Just what things were included in the inscription on the stones and in the reading we are not told. Doubtless, at least, the substance and sanctions of the law. It is clear that there was no self-pleasing discrimination in favour of the easy and agreeable commands, nor yet in the singling-out of the blessings and the rejection of the cursings.
IV. THE MISTAKE OF WITHHOLDING ANY PART OF GOD'S LAW FROM ANY AGE OR CLASS. "All Israel, and their elders and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark, and on that side." None were so great and wise that they had no need to be present. And "there was not a word of all that Moses commanded which Joshua read not," &c. It is sometimes thought that the great and sober things of God's law are not to be taught to children. "Set before them only the bright things," it is said. How strange that it is so much easier to be wise in earthly things than in the heavenly! In this world's affairs, we teach the child to foresee that which is evil, that he may hide himself. We remember, too, that great souls are never nurtured on the ostrich plan. The ostrich thrusts his head into the sand, shuts his eyes, and, seeing no peril, says, "Now I am safe!" This is not God's way. The "little ones" were to hear "all that Moses commanded." They might comprehend little. They would feel much. Through the imagination, their souls would be filled with abiding, restraining, and uplifting awe.
V. THE POSSIBILITY OF A SERENE CONTEMPLATION OF GOD'S LAW AND REMEMBRANCE OF OUR PAST UNFAITHFULNESS TO IT. First of all, before he ventured to read the law, "Joshua built an altar," &c. On this altar, burnt-offerings and peace-offerings were to be presented. The burnt-offering signified self-surrender, entire devotement to God; the peace-offering, joyful communion with Him. Thus the people came face to face with law and penalty, not as aliens, but as friends; their sins expiated and pardoned; their persons, powers, and possessions made over to Him to be wholly His; their hearts at rest in the gladdening sense of His favour. To such the law could be nothing other than a blessed, Divine rule. So it may be with us.
(Sermons by the Monday Club.).
Parallel VersesKJV: And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.