The fulness of blessing

by Sarah Frances Smiley

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The Creation Concept

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Contents

Introduction

I. The land of Promise

II. The failure of unbelief

III. Change of Leadership

IV. The Boundary Line

V. The Triple Preparation

VI. The Ark of the Covenant

VII. Memorial Stones

VIII. The Reproach of Egypt

IX. The Passover in Canaan

X. The New Corn And Fruit of the Land

XI. Seeing The Captain

XII. The Good Fight of Faith

XIII. Failure and Mistakes

XIV. Choice Possessions

XV. The Last Charge of Joshua

CHAPTER VII.

MEMORIAL STONES.

"THESE STONES SHALL BE FOR A MEMORIAL UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FOREVER." --(Josh. iv. 7.)

After the crossing of Jordan, immediate steps were taken to keep the great event alive to all coming generations. By express command of the Lord, twelve stones were carried from the bed of Jordan, where the priests had stood, and were set up at Gilgal, where the children of ferael lodged that night. As the song of Moses preserved the memory of the Red Sea Crossing, so now that they have at last reached a spot which is not to be left behind in journeying, a more solid memorial is to bear witness to the wonderful works of the Lord.

The lessons to be learned from these stones of memorial, are more simple than many others in this history, and yet of too much importance to be wholly slighted. The first suggested, is the duty of "well remembering "whatever the Lord has done. There are steps in our Christian course which can never be repeated in act, but which need often to be repeated in vivid remembrance. The blessed influences of a moment may thus be diffused over a lifetime. It may often happen, also, that the significance of an act not fully recognized at the time, may so grow upon the soul that, like those fruits which mellow long after they are gathered, its real blessedness is tasted in far distant years. Indeed, the events are very few. which assume their full importance at the time. The thought of this should quiet that keen regret, which would fain transfer to the past, the fuller comprehension of the present. Mere sentiment might thus receive a finer gratification; but still all really solid and substantial uses may be served by a right remembrance.

On the other hand, forgetfulness of our past blessings and of the wonderful ways of our God, is unspeakable loss. He who has "forgotten that he was purged from his old sins," has lost the very mainspring of Christian progress. For as remembrance means renewal, so does forgetfulness mean forfeiture. A lively faith will always be blessed with a clear memory, and thus forgetfulness is one of the earliest and surest symptoms of unbelief. "They soon forgat His works," is equivalent to saying that their faith had waned. So Jesus upbraids His disciples who, after twice seeing the multitude fed by Him, were heard reasoning because they had no bread--"And do ye not remember?" [1] Throughout the Epistles remarkable stress is laid upon the power of such recollection. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, that if they kept in memory that which he had preached and they received, they should be saved. [2] And to the Ephesians, seated in heavenly places, he writes: "Wherefore remember!" They were still to bear constantly in mind that they had once been far off, and were made nigh only by the blood of Jesus. Again, how earnestly he charges Timothy, "Of these things put them in remembrance." Still more striking are the words of the Apostle Peter, who announces his design in both his Epistles to be this, to "stir up their pure minds by way of remembrance." [3] Well taught as had been his hearers, and profound as was his own knowledge of the truth, there yet seemed to him nothing so pressing as this. "Wherefore," he writes, "I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance. Moreover, I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance." [4] In these Athenian days, when men spend their time either in telling or hearing some new thing, and even in the house of God listen restlessly to old truth, we have need to be reminded of this high authority for such reiteration of it, as shall keep it always in mind. And it is safe to say that whenever the truth, as already heard, has been assimilated, there will always be fresh eagerness to hear it again, as both new and old. It is through such constant remembrance, that faith is found ripening into ever richer experiences.

As to the significance of the stones themselves thus set up at Gilgal, there are two interpretations-- not, however, in conflict, but the one being rather continued and completed in the other. We may regard them, in the first place, and with reference to the foothold they supplied, as representing the word and promises of God, which are the stay and support of the soul; and then in their fuller meaning, that same word as embodied in the risen life of Believers, and especially in the twelve Apostles.

As to the first of these meanings, we have to note that the stones were taken out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm. To hold the Ark steadily up before the eyes of the people who looked to this as their security, there was needed firm footing--such footing as could be found only on a rock. Doubtless the first efforts of the priests would be to secure this standing. And whether we regard the bearers of the Ark as representing Christ, the Upholder of His own Covenant, or as still further signifying the delegation of this priestly privilege to others--what in either case could give firm foothold, save that Word of God, which is very sure and very steadfast? "The True Sayings of God"--"The exceeding great and precious promises"--these furnish a firm foundation in the deepest depths. Brought out of the horrible pit and the miry clay, the feet may be set upon these as on a rock.

Each priest stood upon his own stone, and then a man out of each tribe was appointed to bring up each one a stone. Their distinctness was not to be lost in the monument as a whole, for the question of coming ages was to be, "What mean ye by these stones?" Practically, it is not upon the entire revelation of God, but upon some one portion of it, that each man takes his stand. Any one of the promises appropriated singly in an hour of need, will yield far more support than a general conviction of the truth of all. Because there is always some promise that is not only secure, but precisely adapted to our present need, and which while it does not distinctly include, yet powerfully suggests the whole Gospel. Christian Biography abounds with instances, where an epoch of life was characterized by the vivid apprehension of some single saying, out of all the many words of God.

It is well that there should be many stones, and many witnesses; that as human needs are definite and varied, so should be also the instrumentalities. Each true witness for God can only bear his witness from his own experience, and in his own way; and there will always be those that could receive no other. Many ropes may be thrown from the lifeboat; it is salvation to grasp but one--the nearest. Twelve manner of fruits grow, each in their season, upon the tree of life; it is the best sustenance for the hungry to take that which is ripest. By twelve gates will the holy city be entered, and the right gate for all those who come from the north, and from the south, from the east, and from the west, is that which we see upon our own side, and can reach by the shortest road. And so while there are twelve stones, to each his own stone will seem the strongest and surest. That promise of God in which he first clearly finds the resurrection-power of Jesus, must needs be the most precious. Again and again will he prove it. Like the sword of David, it is that with which he triumphed at the first, and "there is none like that."

As these stones were set up at Gilgal, and they gathered round them, on that most memorable night of first resting in the land of rest, how naturally would each of the priests point to his own stone, and say, "Upon this one it was that my feet stood firm;" while another near him would make answer," And that same stone it was that I brought up upon my shoulder." The joy of all would be multiplied by the special joy on the part of each; and their sense of possession in the whole memorial, be heightened by the fact of their peculiar portion in a part.

It would furnish a most interesting study, to consider in the case of the Apostles, so far as we have a record of their faith, what it was that was the personal stand-point of each. And another study might be made more complete, in considering what twelve true sayings of God, would best set forth the manifoldness and adaptiveness of His truth; and whose feet also they had stayed, and on whose shoulders they had been carried as trophies.

But without attempting this, let one stone be here brought over, and set up as a memorial; not only because personally, exceedingly precious, but also because it is so broad that the whole world might stand there, if they would. "He That Spared Not His Own Son, But Delivered Him Up For Us All, How Shall He Not With Him Also Freely Give Us ALL THINGS?" As in a granite rock, glittering with its clear crystals, so out of this strong logic of the Gospel, there flashes all the light of love. There it stands in the past--that great fact--that Christ died--died because "God so loved the world." Such a gift once given, what else shall He not give!

"Behold His greatest gift of all is free,
And pledges every lesser gift to thee!"

It was in vain that Archimedes sighed for his *** from which to move the earth; but in the marvellous mechanics of Grace, the Cross of Christ is that stand-point which has been given, and from which He will yet move the Universe. There we may stand in all our weakness, and wait and watch to see Him work His wonders. And to what a climax of hope we climb, as word after word of this persuading prom ise sets our feet higher yet: "How--shall He not--with Him--also--freely--give us--all things?" How the strong arches stretch in succession over the whole wide stream of judgment! Or rather, we may behold it, as the one lithe span of a Sure Salvation, suspended over the chasm sundering earth and heaven, and let down on either side from the High Towers of a Father's and a Brother's love!

This sure word of promise, is no private title deed, but the broad charter of all who claim their citizenship in Heaven. Every one, who has received Christ at all as a Saviour, may go on to receive with Him all things. If any one admit the least flaw in this title to the fulness of Grace and Glory, he at the same time disallows it all, and must stand wholly disinherited. For with what consistency can he who claims not all, claim anything? "All Things"--"For Us All"--for whom Christ died. Such is the substance of the Promise.

"All things, for us all." Such a saying should silence forever all the babbling of the faithless, who still insist, "These blessings are for a few, not for all--not for me." But God has graven it in the Rock forever, "ALL THINGS FOR US ALL." Venture, then, timid traveller, upon this sure promise of thy God.

Here, take thy stand upon the Rock, saying, "I can do no other." Make this thy stepping-stone into the Land of Promise, and the power of Christ's Resurrection. Make this also thy sure foundation, and there uphold the glorious Covenant, in the eyes of all whose feet seem ready to fail for fear. Set it up as thy memorial, and keep it always in thy remembrance. And thou shalt never need to seek for any other stone upon which to write thy Eben-ezer; but with every coming day, thou canst still say, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped me," and so set to thy seal that God is true.

But to pass on to the fuller significance of this symbol. The word of God thus proven in experience, becomes embodied in the life of the Believer. Each faithful confessor of His Lord becomes a Rock, and is built up as a living stone, in that monument which witnesses to the power and wisdom of God--His holy Church. The Resurrection of Jesus was followed by the setting up of its foundations, and as it" groweth to an holy Temple," it is the truest trophy which He exhibits to the Universe. Christian Confession, Christian Character, Christian Conduct--these are the true memorials of a Risen Saviour. And as the stones at Gilgal renewed from age to age the question, "What mean ye by these stones?"--so will it always be that such a life will suggest the deepest searching into the ways of God. Very sweetly, in words that are daily endeared to the hearts of thousands, has this great need been shaped into the prayer, "We beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we may show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness, all our days." [5]

Meanwhile, there is one great memorial, that has already been set up, and that has stood strong throughout the ages--twelve goodly stones that have been marked with special honor--the Twelve Apostles of our Lord. Distributing to the many members of the one body their gifts and offices, "God hath set in the Church, first, Apostles." Joined in a peculiarly close and sacred fellowship with the Chief Corner-stone, these twelve were to constitute the first solid round of foundation stones [6] which in all the future growth of the Holy Temple could never be repeated. The Building could only be fitly framed together, by every other stone being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. [7] Chosen to be witnesses of Christ's Resurrection, they are set up as soon as their Lord has passed over through death into life. The importance of their office may be somewhat measured from that long night of solitary prayer on the mountain-top, which preceded their call, as well as from all the solemn, sacred words and acts of their subsequent commission.

Were our Gospel given us only in the life of Jesus upon earth--had our New Testament closed with the record of the Evangelists--we should have had only that which "Jesus began both to do and teach." For its completion and its full preparation for the world, it was needful that it should be wrought out practically in merely human lives. It was fitting, also, that the number selected for the first exhibition of this new power, should be the same as that so often chosen by God as representing human instrumentality. Twelve is the multiple of that number which marks the Triune Being of God, and of that other which denotes earthly expansion, and completeness of human combination. [8] Thus both Divine and human factors are seen in the number of Instruments, set apart by God, for working upon man, through man.

Thus then were the Twelve Apostles set forth as our examples--taken out of the common quarries of humanity, even out of its roughest regions--to show before the world, what forms of God-like manliness the great Sculptor could shape and polish.

And standing first as ensamples, they are also clothed with high authority. It was the safety of the earliest converts, that "they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship." It is still the safety of the Church, even for such as are "prophets" and "spiritual," to acknowledge the things which they wrote unto us, as the commandments of the Lord. [9]

"What mean ye by these stones? "was the inquiry to be ever incited by the memorial at Gilgal. And a question like it still confronts the sceptic and the careless--What mean these Living Stones--these lives of Christ's Apostles?

What mean from simple peasants and fishermen such dignity and grandeur?--out of a nation so narrow and so rigid, such breadth, such pliability? --What mean in men who have sheathed the sword, a zeal and courage that no warrior ever matched? --What mean from unlearned and ignorant men, those torrents of effective eloquence? --What mean--we will not ask the "signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds," which men have mocked and mimicked--but that Patience, which is the foremost sign of an Apostle, [10] whereas no enchantment can ever "do in like manner?"--What can they mean save this, that Christ who died is risen again, and that these are the witnesses of His Resurrection, each of whom can say, "Christ liveth in me."

It must not be overlooked that while these twelve stones upon the further shore constituted the great memorial, twelve other stones were set up in the midst of Jordan to mark the place where the Ark of the Covenant had gone down; and, says the historian, "There they are unto this day."

For never, while giving testimony to "Jesus and the Resurrection," must the deep valley of His death be forgotten. The Lord Himself has taught us how we should behold Him now, in those words that opened the Apocalypse, "I am the Living One and I BECAME DEAD." "There they are unto this day"--the Agony--the Trial--the Cross--the Tomb! There it was that He stood so long for our sakes that He might bring us unto glory. Yea, even let Him remain, "a Lamb as it had been slain in the midst of the Throne!"

So, also, in that Memorial, which would be robbed of its chief blessing, were it not the communion of the soul with an ascended, glorified Lord, how clearly are we still pointed to the broken body, and the shed blood, and told, in tones that stir all our tenderest thoughts, "Do this in remembrance of me."

It may be permissible to regard one more final lesson as suggested by this latter group of stones. Taken as they were from the Land of Promise itself, and carried back to the bed of the river, they may set forth the call of some of God's servants, to a special fellowship in the sufferings of Christ, for His service sake. The call of the Apostle Paul was thus marked,--"I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake."

So he counted not his life dear unto himself, that he might fulfil his ministry; and thus he filled up "that which was behind of the sufferings of Christ," for the sake of His Church.

And so we may find indicated in these deep-sunken stones, what one of the most spiritual of the German divines has spoken of as, "the deep principle that to every vessel of grace, and especially every witaess of the Gospel, suffering is inevitable; and that the measure of affliction is in proportion to the height and dignity of the vocation." [11] To all His disciples Christ gives His seven-fold Benediction; [12] but he has another beyond these, [13] wherewith to crown His Kings and Priests; that suffering for righteousness' sake, they might "rejoice and be exceeding glad."

Ye whom God honors thus, be not moved by these afflictions. Let your hearts be comforted by the words of one, who knew full well of what he spoke, "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake." "It is a faithful saying, For if we be dead with Him we shall also live with Him; if we suffer WE SHALL ALSO REIGN WItH HIM."

Notes

1. Mark viii. 18.

2. 1 Cor. xv. 1, 2.

3. 2 Pet. iii. 1.

4. 2 Pet. i. 12-15.

5. Book of Common Prayer--General Thanksgiving of Morning and Evening Prayer,

6. Rev. xxi. 14.

7. "'Ye are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone ' (Eph. ii. 20). The corner-stone is but part of the foundation, though it be the first and the chief part; and this consolidation of the cornerstone with the adjacent foundations, as one basement to sustain the building, exhibits in the plainest manner the fact, that the Church, in respect of its faith, rests upon a testimony which was delivered partly by Jesus in person, and partly by the agents whom for that purpose He ordained. Their inspiration as believers associates them with the whole Church; their inspiration as teachers unites them only with their Lord."--Bernard's Progress of Doctrine in the New Test., p. 125.

8. See page 194-5 of Vol. I. of Bahr's "Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus" (Heidelberg, 1874.) See also the Introduction to Lange's Com. on the Revelation of St. John.

9. 1 Cor. xiv. 37.

10. 2 Cor. xii. 12.

11. Rudolph Stier, "Words of the Risen Saviour,'' p. 36.

12. Matt. v. 3-9.

13. Matt. v. 10.