strongly that we are but threads in a great network, endowed with
mysterious vitality and power of transmitting electric impulses, both
of good and evil.
Again, we have one more illustration in this story of the well-worn
lesson, - never too threadbare to be repeated, until it is habitually
realised, - that God's eye sees the hidden sins. Nobody saw Achan carry
the spoil to his tent, or dig the hole to hide it. His friends walked
across the floor without suspicion of what was beneath. No doubt, he
held his place in his tribe as an honourable man, and his conscience
traced no connection between that recently disturbed patch on the floor
and the helter-skelter flight from Ai; but when the lot began to be
cast, he would have his own thought, and when the tribe of Judah was
taken, some creeping fear would begin to coil round his heart, which
tightened its folds, and hissed more loudly, as each step in the lot
brought discovery nearer home; and when, at last, his own name fell
from the vase, how terribly the thought would glare in on him, - 'And
God knew it all the while, and I fancied I had covered it all up so
safely.' It is an awful thing to hear the bloodhounds following up the
scent which leads them straight to our lurking-place. God's judgments
may be long in being put on our tracks, but, once loose, they are sure
of scent, and cannot be baffled. It is an old, old thought, 'Thou God
seest me'; but kept well in mind, it would save from many a sin, and
make sunshine in many a shady place.
Again, we have in Achan a lesson which the professing Christians of
great commercial nations, like England, sorely need. I have already
pointed out the singular parallel between him and Ananias and Sapphira.
Covetousness was the sin of all three. It is the sin of the Church to-
day. The whole atmosphere in which some of us live is charged with the
subtle poison of it. Men are estimated by their wealth. The great aim
of life is to get money, or to keep it, or to gain influence and
notoriety by spending it. Did anybody ever hear of church discipline
being exercised on men who committed Achan's sin? _He_ was stoned
to death, but we set _our_ Achans in high places in the Church.
Perhaps if we went and fell on our faces before the ark when we are
beaten, we should be directed to some tent where a very 'influential
member' of Israel lived, and should find that to put an end to his
ecclesiastical life had a wonderful effect in bringing back courage to
the army, and leading to more unmingled dependence on God. Covetousness
was stoned to death in Israel, and struck with sudden destruction in
the Apostolic Church. It has been reserved for the modern Church to
tolerate and almost to canonise it; and yet we wonder how it comes that
we are so often foiled before some little Ai, and so seldom see any
walls falling by our assault. Let us listen to that stern sentence, 'I
will not be with you any more, except ye destroy the devoted thing from
THE SUN STAYED
Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon.'-JOSHUA x. 12
'The last time,' what a sad sound that has! In all minds there is a
shrinking from the last time of doing even some common act. The walk
down a street that we have passed every day for twenty years, and never
cared in the least about, and the very doorsteps and the children in
the streets, have an interest for us, as pensively we leave the
commonplace familiar scene.
On this last Sunday of another year, there comes a tone of sober
meditation over us, as we think that it _is_ the last. I would
fain let the hour preach. I have little to say but to give voice to its
My text is only taken as a starting-point, and I shall say nothing
about Joshua and his prayer. I do not discuss whether this was a
miracle or not. It seems, at any rate, to be taken by the writer of the
story as one. What a picture he draws of the fugitives rushing down the
rocky pass, blind in their fear, behind them the flushed and eager
conqueror, the burst of the sudden tempest and far in the west the
crescent moon, the leader on the hilltop with his prayer for but one
hour or two more of daylight to finish the wild work so well begun!
And, says the story, his wish was granted, and no day has been 'like
it before or since, in which the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a
man.' Once, and only once, did time seem to stand still; from the
beginning till now it has been going steadily on, and even then it only
seemed to stand. That day seemed longer, but life was passing all the
And so the first thought forced upon us here by our narrative and by
the season is the old one, so commonplace and yet so solemn.
I. Life inexorably slides away from us.
Once, and only once, it seemed to pause. How often since has Joshua's
prayer been prayed again! By the fearful, - the wretch to be hanged at
eight o'clock to-morrow morning, the man whom the next train will part
from all he loves. By the hopeful, - the child wearying for the
holidays, the bridegroom,
'Gallop apace, ye fiery-footed steeds!'
By the suffering, -
'Would God it were evening!'
By the martyr amid the flames,
'Come quickly, Lord Jesus!'
But all in vain. We cannot expand the moments to hours, nor compress
the hours to moments. Leaden or winged, the hours are hours. The cold-
blooded pendulum ticks on, equable and unaltered, and after sixty
minutes, no sooner and no later, the hour strikes. 'There is a time
for every purpose.'
How solemn is the thought of that constant process! It goes on for
ever, like the sea fog creeping up from the wide ocean and burying life
and sunshine in its fatal folds, or like the ever-flowing river, or
like the fall plunging over the edge of the cliff, or like the motions
of the midnight sky. Each moment in its turn passes into the colourless
stony past, and the shadow creeps up the hillside.
And how unnoticed it is! We only know motion by the jolts. The
revolution of the earth and its rush along its orbit are unfelt by us.
We are constantly startled to feel how long ago such and such a thing
took place. The mother sees her little girl at her knee, and in a few
days, as it seems, finds her a woman. How immense is our life in the
prospect, how awfully it collapses in the retrospect! Only by seeing
constellation after constellation set, do we know that the heavens are
in motion. We have need of an effort of serious reflection to realise
that it is of _us_ and of _our_ lives that all these old commonplaces
That constant, unnoticed progress has an end. Our life is a definite
period, having a bounded past behind it, a present, and a bounded
future before it. We have a sandglass and it runs out. We are like men
sliding down a rope or hauling a boat towards a fixed point. The sea is
washing away our sandy island, and is creeping nearer and nearer to
where we stand, and will wash over us soon. No cries, nor prayers, nor
wishes will avail. It is vain for _us_ to say, 'Sun! stand thou
II. Therefore our chief care should be to finish our work in our day.
Joshua had his day lengthened; we can come to the same result by
crowding ours with service. What is the purpose of life? Is it a shop?
or a garden? a school? No. Our 'chief end' is to become like God and a
little to help forward His cause. All is intended to develop character;
all life is disciplinary.
God's purpose should be our desire. That desire should mould all our
thoughts and acts. There should be no mere sentimental regrets for the
past, but the spirit of consecration should affect our thoughts about
it. There should be penitence, thankfulness, not vain mourning over
what is gone. There should be no waste or selfish use of the present.
What is it given us for but to use for God?
Strenuous work is the true way to lengthen each day. Time is infinitely
elastic. The noblest work is to do 'the works of Him that sent me.'
There should be no care for the future. It is in His hand. There will
be room in it for doing all His will.
'Lord, it belongs not to my care,
Whether I die or live.'
III. If so, the passing day will have results that never pass.
Joshua's day was long enough for his work, and that work was a victory
which told on future generations. So life, short as it is, will be long
enough for all that we have to do and learn and be.
Christ's servant is immortal till his work is done.
God gives every man time enough for his salvation.
What may we bring out of life? Character, Christ-likeness, thankful
memories, union with God, capacity for heaven. The transient leaves the
abiding. The flood foams itself away, but deposits rich soil on the
IV. Thus the passing away of what must pass may become a joy.
Why should we be sad? There are reasons enough, as many sad, lonely
hearts among us know too well To some men dark thoughts of death and
judgment make the crumbling away of life too gloomy a fact to be
contemplated, but it may and should be calm joy to us that the weary
world ends and a blessed life begins. We may count the moments and see
them pass, as a bride watches the hours rolling on to her marriage
morning; not, indeed, without tremor and sadness at leaving her old
home, but yet with meek hope and gentle joy.
It is possible for men to see that life is but 'as a shadow that
declineth,' and yet to be glad. By faith in Christ, united to 'Him Who
is for ever and ever,' our souls shall 'triumph over death and thee, O
We need not cry, 'Sun! stand still!' but rather, 'Come quickly, Lord
Then Time shall be 'the lackey to eternity,' and Death be the porter of
heaven's gate, and we shall pass from the land of setting suns and
waning moons and change and sorrow, to that land where 'thy sun shall
no more go down,' and 'there shall be no more time.'
UNWON BUT CLAIMED
'There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed, ... them will I
drive out from before the children of Israel; only divide thou it by
lot unto Israel for an inheritance' - Joshua xiii. 1-8.
Joshua was now a very old man and had occupied seven years in the
conquest. His work was over, and now he had only to take steps to
secure the completion by others of the triumph which he would never
see. This incident has many applications to the work of the Church in
the world, but not less important ones to individual progress, and we
consider these mainly now.
I. The clear recognition of present imperfection.
That is essential in all regions, 'Not as though'; the higher up, the
more clearly we see the summit. The ideal grows loftier, as partially
realised. The mountain seems comparatively low and easy till we begin
to climb. We should be continually driven by a sense of our
incompleteness, and drawn by the fair vision of unattained
possibilities. In all regions, to be satisfied with the attained is to
cease to grow.
This is eminently so in the Christian life, with its goal of absolute
How blessed this dissatisfaction is! It keeps life fresh: it is the
secret of perpetual youth.
Joshua's work was incomplete, as every man's must be. We each have our
limitations, the defects of our qualities, the barriers of our
environment, the brevity of our day of toil, and we have to be content
to carry the fiery cross a little way and then to give it up to other
hands. There is only One who could say,' It is done.' Let us see that
we do our own fragment.
II. The confident reckoning on complete possession.
Joshua's conquest was very partial. He subdued part of the central
mountain nucleus, but the low-lying stretch of country on the coast,
Philistia and the maritime plain up to Tyre and Sidon and other
outlying districts, remained unsubdued. Yet the whole land was now to
be allotted out to the tribes. That allotment must have strengthened
faith in their ultimate possession, and encouraged effort to make the
ideal a reality, and to appropriate as their own in fact what was
already theirs in God's purpose. So a great part of Christian duty, and
a great secret of Christian progress, is to familiarise ourselves with
the hope of complete victory. We should acquire the habit of
contemplating as certainly meant by God to be ours, complete conformity
to Christ's character, complete appropriation of Christ's gifts. God
bade Jeremiah buy a 'field that was in Anathoth' at the time an
invading army held the land. A Roman paid down money for the ground on
which the besiegers of Rome were encamped. It does not become
Christians to be less confident of victory. But we have to take heed
that our confidence is grounded on the right foundation. God's
commandment to Joshua to allot the land, even while the formidable foes
enumerated in the context held it firmly, was based on the assurance
(verse 6): 'Them will I drive out before the children of Israel.'
Confidence based on self is presumption, and will end in defeat;
confidence based on God will brace to noble effort, which is all the
more vigorous and will surely lead to victory, because it distrusts
III. The vigorous effort animated by both the preceding.
How the habit of thinking the unconquered land theirs would encourage
Israel. Efforts without hope are feeble; hope without effort is
Israel's history is significant. The land was never actually all
conquered. God's promises are all conditional, and if we do not work,
or if we work in any other spirit than in faith, we shall not win our
allotted part in the 'inheritance of the saints in light.' It is
possible to lose 'thy crow.' 'Work out your own salvation.' 'Trust in
the Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land.'
CALEB - A GREEN OLD AGE
'And Caleb... said unto him (Joshua), Thou knowest the thing that the
Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-
barnea.' - JOSHUA xiv. 6.
Five and forty years had passed since the Lord had 'said this thing.'
It was the promise to these two, now old men, of the prolongation of
their lives, and to Caleb of his inheritance in the land. Seven years
of fighting have been got through, and the preparations are being made
for the division of the land by lot. But, before that is done, it is
fitting that Caleb, whose portion had been specially secured to him by
that old promise, should have the promise specially recognised and
endorsed by the action of the leader, and independent of the operation
of the lot. So he appears before Joshua, accompanied by the head men of
his tribe, whose presence expresses their official consent to the
exceptional treatment of their tribesman, and urges his request in a
little speech, full of pathos and beauty and unconscious portraiture of
the speaker. I take it as a picture of an ideal old age, showing in an
actual instance how happy, vigorous, full of buoyant energy and
undiminished appetite for enterprise a devout old age may be. And my
purpose now is not merely to comment on the few words of our text, but
upon the whole of what falls from the lips of Caleb here.
I. I see then here, first, a life all built upon God's promise.
Five times in the course of his short plea with Joshua does he use the
expression 'the Lord spake.' On the first occasion of the five he
unites Joshua with himself as a recipient of the promise, 'Thou knowest
the thing that the Lord said concerning me and thee.' But in the other
four he takes it all to himself; not because it concerned him only, but
because his confidence, laying hold of the promise, forgot his brother
in the earnestness of his personal appropriation of it. And so,
whatsoever general words God speaks to the world, a true believer will
make them his very own; and when Christ says, 'God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him
should not perish,' faith translates it into 'He loved me, and gave
Himself for me.' This is the first characteristic of a life built upon
the promise of God, that it lays its hand upon that promise and claims
it all for its very own.
Then notice, still further, how for all these forty-five years Caleb
had 'hid the word in his heart,' had lived upon it and thought about it
and believed it, and recognised the partial fulfilment of it, and
cherished the secret fire unknown to any besides. And now at last,
after so long an interval, he comes forward and stretches out a hand,
unweakened by the long delay, to claim the perfect fulfilment at the
end of his days. So 'the vision may tarry,' but a life based upon God's
promise has another estimate of swiftness and slowness than is current
amongst men who have only the years of earthly life to reckon by; and
that which to sense seems a long, weary delay, to faith seems but as 'a
watch in the night'. The world, which only measures time by its own
revolutions, has to lament over what seem to the sufferers long years
of pains and tears, but in the calendar of faith 'weeping endures for a
night, joy cometh in the morning.' The weary days dwindle into a point
when they are looked at with an eye that has been accustomed to gaze on
the solemn eternities of a promising and a faithful God. To it, as to
Him, 'a thousand years are as one day'; and 'one day,' in the
possibilities of divine favour and spiritual growth which it may
enfold, 'as a thousand years.' To the men who measure time as God
measures it, His help, howsoever long it may tarry, ever comes 'right
Further, note how this life, built upon faith in the divine promise,
was nourished and nurtured by instalments of fulfilment all along the
road. Two promises were given to Caleb - one, that his life should be
prolonged, and the other, that he should possess the territory into
which he had so bravely ventured. The daily fulfilment of the one fed
the fire of his faith in the ultimate accomplishment of the other, and
he gratefully recounts it now, as part of his plea with Joshua - 'Now,
behold, the Lord hath kept me alive as He spake, these forty and five
years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses. And now, lo! I
am this day fourscore and five years old.'
Whosoever builds his life on the promise of God has in the present the
guarantee of the better future. As we are journeying onwards to that
great fountain-head of all sweetness and felicity, there are ever
trickling brooks from it by the way, at which we may refresh our
thirsty lips and invigorate our fainting strength. The present
instalment carries with it the pledge of the full discharge of the
obligation, and he whose heart and hope is fixed with a forward look on
the divine inheritance, may, as he looks backward over all the years,
see clearly in them one unbroken mass of preserving providences, and
thankfully say, 'The Lord hath kept me alive, as He spake.'
And, still further, the life that is built upon faith like this man's,
is a life of buoyant hopefulness till the very end. The hopes of age
are few and tremulous. When the feast is nearly over, and the appetite
is dulled, there is little more to be done, but to push back our chairs
and go away. But God keeps 'the good wine' until the last. And when all
earthly hopes are beginning to wear thin and to burn dim, then the
great hope of 'the mountain of the inheritance' will rise brighter and
clearer upon our horizon. It is something to have a hope so far in
front of us that we never get up to it, to find it either less than our
expectations or more than our desires; and this is not the least of the
blessednesses of the living 'hope that maketh not ashamed,' that it
lies before us till the very end, and beckons and draws us across the
gulf of darkness. 'The Lord hath kept me alive, as He said; now give me
this mountain whereof the Lord spake.'
II. Further, I see here a life that bears to be looked back at.
Caleb becomes almost garrulous in telling over the old story of that
never-to-be-forgotten day, when he and Joshua stood alone and tried to
put some heart into the cowardly mob before them. There is no mock
modesty about the man. He says that, amidst many temptations to be
untrue, he gave his report with sincerity and veracity, 'speaking as it
was in mine heart,' and then he quotes twice, with a permissible
satisfaction, the eulogium that had come upon him from the divine lips,
'I wholly followed the Lord my God.' The private soldier's cheek may
well flush and his eye glitter as he repeats over again his general's
praise. And for Caleb, half a century has not dimmed the impression
that was made on his heart when he received that praise, through the
lips of Moses, from God.
Now, of course, such a tone of speaking about one's past savours of an
earlier stage in revelation than that in which we live, and, if this
were to be taken as a man's total account of his whole life, we could
not free it from the charge of unpleasing self-complacency and self-
righteousness. But for all that, it is not the same thing in the
retrospect whether you and I have to look back upon years that have
been given to self, and the world, and passion, and pride, and
covetousness, and frivolities and trifles of all sorts, or upon years
that in the main, and regard being had to their deepest desires and
governing direction, have been given to God and to His service. Many a
man looking back upon his life - I wonder if there are any such men
listening to me now - can only see such a sight as Abraham did on that
morning when he looked down on the plain of Sodom, and 'Lo! the smoke
of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace.' Dear friends I the only
thing that makes life in the retrospect tolerable is that it shall have
been given to God, and that we can say, 'I wholly followed the Lord my
III. Again, I see here a life which has discovered the secret of
'I,' says the old man - 'am as strong this day as I was in the day when
Moses sent me. As my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for
war, both to go out and to come in.' For fighting, and for all the
intercourse and manifold activities of life, his sinews are as braced,
his eyes as clear, his spirit and limbs as alert as they were in those
old days. No doubt you will say that was due to miraculous
intervention. No doubt it was; but is it not true that, in a very real
sense, a man may keep himself young all his life, if he will go the
right way to work? And the secret of perpetual youthfulness lies here,
in giving our hearts to God and in living for Him. Christianity, with
its self-restraint and its exhortations to all, and especially to the
young, to be chaste and temperate and to subdue the animal passions,
has a direct tendency to conserve physical vigour; and Christianity, by
the inspiration that it imparts, the stimulus that it gives, and the
hopes that it permits us to cherish, has a direct tendency to keep
alive in old age all the best of the characteristics of youth. Its
buoyancy, its undimmed interest, its cheeriness, its freedom from
anxiety and care - all these things are directly ministered to, and
preserved by, a life of simple faith that casts itself upon God, and
dwells securely, in joy and in restfulness, and not without a great
light of hope, even when the shadows of evening are falling.
One of the greatest and most blessed of the characteristics of youth is
the consciousness that the most of life lies before us; and to a
Christian man, in any stage of his earthly life, that consciousness is
possible. When he stands on the verge of the last sinking sandbank of
time, and the water is up to his ankles, he may well feel that the best
and the most of life is yet to be.
'The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, "A whole I planned.
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid."'
'They shall still bring forth fruit in old age, they shall be full of
sap and green.' A gnarled old tree may be green in all its branches,
and blossom and fruit may hang together there. The ideal of life is,
that into each stage we shall carry the best of the preceding,
harmonised with the best of the new, and that is possible to a
Christian soul. The fountain of perpetual youth, of which the ancients
fabled, is no fable, but a fact; and it rises, where the prophet in his
vision saw the stream coming out, from beneath the threshold of the
IV. So, lastly, I see here a beautiful example of a life which to the
last is ready for danger and enterprise.
Caleb's words as to his undiminished strength were not meant for a
boast. They express thankfulness and praise, and they are put as the