John Henry Newman.

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from ruin ; strongly marking the contrast between the two, in that the
weak brother owed his safety to the intercession of him, who, enjoying
God's favour, was content to be without earthly portion. " And the
Lord said. Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do ? seeing
that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all
the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him 1 For I know him,
that he will command his children and his household after him, and
they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment, that
the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of
Him." Accordingly Abraham was allowed to intercede for Sodom
and all who were in it. I need scarcely go through this solemn nar-
rative, which is doubtless well known to all of us. Abraham began
with asking whether fifty righteous were not remaining in the city ; he
found himself obliged gradually to contract the supposed remnant of
good men therein, till he came down to ten, but not even ten were
found to delay God's vengeance. Here he ceased his intercession,
perhaps in despair, and fearing to presume upon that adorable mercy,
the depths of which he had tried, but had not ascertained. He did
not mention Lot by name ; still God understood and answered the un-
expressed desire of his heart ; for we are told presently, " It came to
pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered
Ahraliam, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he
overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt."f

It was an eventide that two Angels came to Sodom, to rescue from
it the only man (as it would seem) who had retained in his mind those
instincts of right and wrong which are given us by nature, who con-
tinued to acknowledge the true God, had exercised himself in faith and
obedience, and had not done despite to the gracious Spirit. Multi-
tudes of children there doubtless were in that city untainted with actual
sin ; these were involved in their parents' ruin, as they are now-a-days
in earthquakes, conflagrations, or shipwreck. But of those who could
" discern between their right hand and their left," not ten (we know
for certain), and (as it may be concluded) not one had righteousness

» Gen. xviii. 20, 21. t Gen. xix. 29.



I.] ABRAHAM AND LOT. 455

such as Lot's. " Old and young, all the people," " in every quarter,"
were corrupt before God, and therefore are " set forth for an example "
of what the Ail-merciful God can do when sinners provoke Him to
wrath. "We will destroy this place," the Angels said, "because the
cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord
hath sent us to destroy it." " And when the morning arose the Angels
hastened Lot . . . and brought him forth and set him v/ithout the
city : and said " Escape for tlw life, look not behind thee, neither stay
thou in all the plain, escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."
— Thus was Lot a second time warned and rescued ; whether he was
brought thereby to a more consistent righteousness, or more enlight-
ened faith, than before, we know not. What became of him after this
event we know not ; of his subsequent life and death nothing is told
us, the sacred record breaks off abruptly. This alone we know, that
his posterity, the Moabites and Ammonites, were the enemies of the
descendants of Abraham, his friend and kinsman, the favoured servant
of God ; especially as seducing them to that idolatry and sensuality
which the chosen family was set apart to withstand. Had not God in
mercy confirmed to us, by the mouth of St. Peter, the saying of the
wise man in the Apocrypha, that Lot was " righteous," we should have
had cause to doubt whether he had not fallen away.

However, without forming harsh judgments concerning one whom
Scripture thus honours, we may at least draw from his history a useful
lesson for ourselves. Miserable will be the fate of the double-minded,
of those who love this world so well that they will not give it up, though
they believe and acknowledge that God bids them do so. Not that they
confess to themselves that their hearts are set upon it ; they contrive to
hide the fact from themselves by specious excuses, and consider them-
selves religious men. My brethren, do not take it for granted that
your temper of mind is much superior to that which I have been de-
scribing and condemning ; nay, that it is not worse than it. You, in-
deed, are placed in an age of the world which is conspicuous for decency,
and in which there are no temptations to the more hideous forms of
sin, or rather much to deter from them. But answer this one question,
and then decide whether this age does not follow Lot's pattern. It
would appear that he thought more of the riches than of the sins of the
cities of the plain. Now, as to the temper of this country, consider
fairly, is there any place, any persons, any work, which our country-
men will not connect themselves with, in the way of trade or business ?
For the sake of gain, do we not put aside all considerations of principle
as unseasonable and almost absurd 1 It is not possible to explain my-
self on this subject without entering into details too familiar for this



456 ABRAHAM AND LOT. [Serm^

sacred place ; but try to follow out for yourselves what I suggest in
general terms. Is there any speculation in commerce which religion
is allowed to interfere with ? Whether Jew, Pagan, or Heretic, is to
be our associate, does it frighten us ever so little 1 Do we care what
side of a quarrel, civil, political, or international, we take, so that we
gain by it ? Do we not serve in war, do we not become debaters and
advocates, do we not form associations and parties, with the supreme
object of preserving property, or making it 1 Do we not support reli-
gion for the sake of peace and good order ? Do we not measure its
importance by its efficacy in securing these objects ? Do we not sup-
port it only so far as it secures them 1 Do we not retrench all expenses
of maintaining it which are not necessary for securing them ? Should
we not feel very lukewarm towards the established religion, unless we
thought the security of property bound up in its welfare ? Should we
not easily resign ourselves to its overthrow, could it be proved to us
that it endangered the State, involved the prospect of civil disturbances,
or embarrassed the Government ? nay, could not we even consent to
it, at the price of the reunion of all parties in the nation, the pacification
of turbulent districts, and the estabhshment of our public credit? Nay,.
further still, could we not easily persuade ourselves to support Anti-
christ, I will not say at home, but at least abroad, rather than we should
lose one portion of the freights which " the ships of Tarshish" bring us ?
If this be the case in any good measure, how vain is it to shelter our-
selves, as the manner of some is, under the notion that we are a moral,
thoughtful, sober-minded, or religious people ! Lot is called a " just
man" by St. Peter, he is referred to as "hospitable" by St. Paul;*
doubtless he was a confessor of the Truth among the wretched in-
habitants of the cities in which he dwelt ; and the rays of hght which
those Apostles shed upon his history, are most cheering and acceptable,
after reading the sad narrative of the Book of Genesis ; still, after all,
who would willingly take on himself Lot's sins, plain though it be that
God had not deserted him ? Surely, if we are to be saved, it is not by
keeping ourselves just above the line of reprobation, and living without
any anxiety and struggle to serve God with a perfect heart. Surely,
if Christians are to be saved, at least their righteousness must be far
other than that which merely argued some remaining grace in one who
was not a Christian. Surely, if Christians are to be saved, they must
have carefully unlearned the love of this world's pleasures, comforts,
luxuries, honours. No one, surely, can really be a Christian, who makes
his worldly interests his chief end of action. A man may be, in a.

» 2 Fet. ii. 7, 8. Heb. siii. 2.



II.] WILFULNESS OF ISRAEL. 457

measure, ill-tempered, resentful, proud, cruel, or sensual, and yet be a
Christian. For passions belong to our inferior nature ; they are irra-
tional, rise spontaneously, are to be subdued by our governing principle,
and (through God's grace) are ultimately, though gradually, subdued.
But what shall be said when the reasoning and ruling faculty, the power
that wills and controls, is turned earthward ? " If the light that is in
thee be darkness, how great is that darkness !"*

God only knows how far these remarks concern each of us. I will
not dare to apply them to this man or that ; but where I even might,
I will rather turn away my mind from the subject. The thought is too
serious, too dreadful to dwell upon. But you must do, my brethren,
what I must not do. It is your duty to apply them to yourselves. Do
not hesitate, as many of you as have never done so, to imagine the
miserable and shocking possibility of your coming short of your hope,
" having loved this present world." Retire into yourselves and imagine
it ; in the presence of Christ your Saviour, in that presence which
at once will shame you, and will encourage you to hope for forgiveness,
if you earnestly turn to Him to obtain it.f



SERMON II



WILFULNESS OF ISRAEL IN REJECTING SAMUEL.



Psalm xlvi. 10.



Be still, and know that I am God : I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be
exalted in the earth.

It was a lesson continually set before the Israelites, that they were
never to presume to act for themselves ; but to wait till God wrought
for them, to look on reverently, and then follow His guidance. God
was their All-wise King ; it was their duty to have no will of their
own, distinct from His will, to form no plan of their own, to attempt no
work of their own. " Be still, and know that I am God." Move not,
speak not ; look to the pillar of the cloud, — see how it moves, — then
follow. Such was the command.

» Matt. vi. 23. t Vide note A at the end of the volume.



458 WILFULNESS OF ISRAEL [Skrm.

For instance : when the Eyptians pursued the Israelites to the coast
of the Red Sea, Moses said to the people, " Fear ye not, stand still, and
see the salvation of the Lord ; the Lord shall fight for you, and ye
shall hold your peace." When they came to the borders of Canaan,
and were frightened at the strength of its inhabitants, they were ex-
horted, "Dread not, neither be afraid of them, the Lord your God shall
fight for you." To the same effect was the dying injunction of Joshua,
" Be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book
of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand
or to the left." And in a later age, when the Moabites and Ammonites
made war against Jchoshaphat, the prophet Jahaziel was inspired to
encourage the people in these words ; " Be not afraid nor dismayed by
reason of their great multitude ; for the battle is not yours, but God's
.... Ye shall not need to fight in this battle : set yourselves, stand ye
still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusa-
lem." Once more : When Israel and Syria came against Judah, the pro-
phet Isaiah v/as directed to meet Ahaz and to say to him, " Take heed,
and be quiet; fear not, neither be faint-hearted."* Presumption, that is,
the determination to act of themselves, or self-will, was placed in the num-
ber of the most heinous sins. " The man that will do presumptuously,
and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there
before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die,
and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel."!

While however this entire surrender of themselves to their Almighty
Creator was an especial duty enjoined on the chosen people, a deliberate
and obstinate transgression of it is one of the especial characteristics of
their history. They failed most conspicuously in that very point, in which
obedience was most strictly enjoined upon them. They were not told
never to act of themselves, and (as if out of mere perverseness) they were
for ever acting of themselves ; and, if we look through the series of their
punishments, we shall find them inflicted, not for mere indolent disobe-
dience, or for frailty under temptation, but for deliberate, shameless
presumption, running forward just in that very direction in which the
Providence of God did not lead them, and from which it even prohibited
tjiem.

First, they made a molten image to worship ; and this just after re-
ceiving the command to make to themselves no emblems of the Divine
Majesty, and while Moses was still in the mount. Then they would
take to themselves a captain, and return to Egypt, instead of proceed-

* Ex.xiv.l3, 14. Deut. i. 29, 30. Josh, xxiii. 6. 2 Chron. xi. 15— 17. Is. vii. 4.
t Deut. xvii. 12.



II.] IX REJECTING SAMUEL. 459

ing into the land of promise. When forbidden to go forward, then they
at once attempted it. At last, when they had entered it, instead of fol-
lowing God's guidance, and destroying the guilty inhabitants, they
adopted a plan of their own, and put their conquered enemies under
tribute. Next followed their self-willed purpose of having a king like
the nations around them.

It is observable moreover that they were the most perversely disobe-
dient, at those times when Divine mercy had aided them in some re-
markable way. For instance, in the life-time of Moses. Again, when
Samuel was raised up to bring back the age of Moses, and to complete
what he had begun, then they ran counter to God's design most sig-
nally ; at the very time, I say, when God was visiting them in their
low estate, and renewing His mercies, their very first act, on gaining
a little strength and recovering from their despair, was to reject God's
government over them, and ask a king like other nations.

This is the part of their history, to which I v,-ish now particularly to
draw your attention, the times of Samuel ; the main circumstances to
be considered being these, — the renewal of God's mercies to them after
their backslidings, — His single demand in return, that they should sub-
mit themselves to His guidance, — and lastly, their plain refusal to do
so, or rather their impetuous and deliberate movement in another direc-
tion.

When Moses was nigh his death, he foretold that a prophet was one
day to arise like unto him in his place ; a promise which was properly
fulfilled in Christ's coming, but which had a prior accomplishment in
the line of prophets from Samuel down to the captivity. A period
however of four hundred years intervened between Moses' age and this
first fulfilment of the prediction. The people were at first ruled by
judges ; at length, in the midst of the distress which their sins had
brought upon them, when the Philistines had overrun the country, God
visited them according to the promise. He raised up Samuel as His
first prophet, and him not as a solitary^ messenger of His purposes, but
as the first of many hundreds in succession.

Now let us consider the circumstances under which Samuel, the first
of the prophets, was raised up. We shall find that his elevation was
owing simply to God's will and power. He, like Moses, was not a
warrior, yet by his prayers he saved his people from their enemies, and
established them in a settled government. " Be still, and know that I
am God :" the principle of this command had been illustrated in the
giving of the Law, and now it was enforced in the beginning of the
Prophetical Dispensation ; as also in later ages, after the captivity, and



460 WILFULNESS OF LSRAEL. [Serb.

when Christ came, according to the words of Zechariah, "Not by
might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Rosts."*

Observe, Samuel was born, in answer to his mother's earnest prayer
for a son. Hannah, " in bitterness of soul, had prayed unto the Lord,
and wept sore, and vowed a vow ;" viz. that if God would give her a
son, he should be dedicated to Him. This should be noticed ; for Sam-
uel was thus marked from his birth as altogether an instrument of the
Lord's providing. A similar providence is observable in the case of
other favoured objects and ministers of God's mercy, in order to show
that that mercy is entirely of grace. Isaac was the child of divine
power ; so was John the Baptist ; and Moses again was almost miracu-
lously saved from the murderous Egyptians in his infancy.

According to his mother's vow, Samuel was taken into the service of
the temple from his earliest years ; and while yet a child was made the
organ of God's sentence of evil upon Eli the high priest. God called
him, in the sacred time between night and morning. " Samuel, Sam-
uel," and denounced through him a judgment against Eh, for his sinful
indulgence towards his sons. Here again was a lesson to the Israelites,
how entirely the prophetic spirit, with which the nation was henceforth
to be favoured, was from God. Had Samuel grown to manhood before
he was inspired, it Avould not have clearly appeared how far the work
was immediately divine ; but when an untaught child was made to pro-
phesy against Eli, the aged high priest, the people were reminded, as in
the case of Moses, who was slow of speech, that it was the Lord who
" made man's mouth, the dumb, or deaf, the seeing, or the blind ;"t and
that age and youth were the same with Him when His purposes re-
quired an instrument.

Samuel thus grew up to manhood, with the presages of greatness on
him from the first. It is written, Samuel grew, and the Lord was with
him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel,
from Dan even to Beersheba," (i. e. from one end of the land to the
other,) " knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.
And the Lord appeared again in*Shiloh ; for the Lord revealed Himself
to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.":j:

After this, when he was about thirty years old, the battle took place
with the Philistines, in which thirty thousand Israelites fell. The ark
of God was taken, and Eli, on hearing the news, fell from off his seat
backward, and was killed. Thus Samuel was raised to the supreme
power, in his country's greatest affliction. Still, even in his elevation,
he was not allowed to do any great action himself. The ark of God

» Zech. iv. 6. t Exodus iv. 11. t 1 Sam. iii. 19—21,



IL] IX REJECTING SAMUEL. 461

was taken, yet he was not to rescue it. God so ordered it that His
name " should be exalted among the heathen, and should be exalted in
the earth."

The Philistines took the ark to Ashdod, and placed it in the temple
of their idol, Dagon. Next morning, Dagon was found fallen on its
face to the earth before it. They set it up again, and the next morning
it was found broken into pieces ;* and soon after the men of Ashdod
and its neighbourhood were smitten with a divine judgment. In conse-
quence, they resolved to rid themselves of what they rightly considered
the cause of it, and transported the ark to Gath. The men of Gath
were smitten with God's anger in their turn, and in their turn sent
away the ark to Ekron. The Ekronites, in their terror, hardly suffered
it to approach them. But the mysterious plague still attended it ; and
the Ekronites, as they had justly feared, were smitten with a " deadly
destruction throughout all the city." The Philistines now determined
to send their spoil, as they had at first fancied it, back to Israel ; but, in
order to try further, as it seems, the power of the God of Israel, they
did as follows : They took two milch-kine, which had never been un-
der the yoke, and shutting up their calves at home, harnessed them to
the cart on which they had placed the ark. Should the kine, in spite
of their natural affection for their young, go towards the IsraeUtish bor-
der, then, they argued, they might be sure that it was the God of Israel
who had smitten them, in punishment for their capture of His holy
habitation. It is written, " The kine took the straight way" towards the
territory of Israel, " lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the
right hand or to the left.."-\

All this was a lesson to the Philistines ; but the Israelites had yet theirs
to learn. They had taken the ark to the battle, not in reverence, but
as if it were a sort of a charm, with virtue in itself, and without any
command from God, presumptuously. They were first punished by
losing it. When they saw the ark returning to them, they rejoiced ;
and the Levites took it down and offered sacrifice. So far was well,
but presently " the men of Bethshemesh . . . looked into it ;" this
evidenced a want of reverence towards God's sacred dwelling-place
And God " smote of the people fifty thousand three score and ten men
and the people lamented," and said, " Who is able to stand before this
Holy Lord God ?"

Thus, when Almighty God, four hundred years after the age of Moses,
again visited His people, He showed Himself in various ways to be the
sole author of the blessings they received. The child Samuel, the ark
of wood, the brute cattle, — these were the instruments through which

* 1 Sam. V. 3, 4. t 1 Sam. vi. 12.



462 WILFULNESS OF ISRAEL [Serm.

He manifested that He was a living God ; and having thus bared His
mighty arm, and bid all men " be still, and know that He was God,"
then at length He sent His first prophet forward to teach and reclaim
the people. " Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye
do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange
gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the
Lord, and serve Him only : arid He will deliver you out of the hand of
the PhiUstines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and
Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only." The period during which this
reformation was carried on seems to have been the greater part of
twenty years, which was more or less a time of captivity. Towards
the end of it, he gathered the Israelites together at Mizpeh, to hold a
fast for their past sins ; and then " he judged the children of Israel in
Mizpeh." This seems to imply a more open assumption of power than
any he had been hitherto directed to make. In consequence, the
Philistines were alarmed, thinking perhaps the subjugated people were
on the point of recovering their independence ; and assembling their
forces they marched against them. " And the children of Israel said
to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord for us, that He will save
us out of the hand of the Philistines. And Samuel took a sucking
lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the Lord, and Sam-
uel cried unto the Lord for Israel, and the Lord heard him." The Phi-
listines drew near to battle, while the sacrifice was offering ; " but the
Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines,
and discomfitted them, and they were smitten before Israel. . . . Then
Samuel took a stone and set it between IMizpeh and Shen, and
called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped
us." In this whole transaction the text is again illustrated. It is added,
" So the PhiUstines were subdued, and came no more into the coast of
Israel, and'the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days
of Samuel. And the cities which they had taken from Israel, were
restored." " And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life," making
circuits year by year through the land.

And now we have arrived at the point in the history, which evidences,
more than any other, the perverse ingratitude of the Israelites. Just
when God had rescued them from their enemies, given them peace, and
by a fresh act of bounty established the prophets in the land as minis-
ters of His word and will, when the heavenly system was just coming
into operation, this was the very time they chose to rebel and run coun-
ter to His purposes. They asked for themselves a king like the nations.
The immediate occasion of this request was the faulty conduct of
Samuel's sons, who assisted their father in his old age, " but walked not



II.] IN REJECTING SAMUEL. 463

in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted
judgment."* This, however, though doubtless a grievance, surely was
no excuse for them. While the Lord was their king, no lasting harm
could happen to them ; yet even " the elders of Israel came to Samuel,
and said unto him, Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in
thy ways : now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." They
added a reason which still more clearly evidenced their obstinate un-



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 51 of 76)