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kingdom? Yes: neither men nor devils shall deprive him of his inheritance: that very land, which by faith he has so often viewed and trodden, shall be given to him; and "all the seed of Caleb" and of Abraham shall have it for their everlasting portion. Behold, Christian, where Caleb now is, thou shalt shortly be whatever difficulties may obstruct thy way, or whatever length of time may intervene, the period shall arrive, when He whom thou servest shall say unto thee, "Come, thou blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for thee from the foundation of the world."]
1. Those who have never set themselves to follow the Lord at all
[Think not that the Christian name will avail thee, while thou art destitute of the Christian spirit. Nor imagine that thou wilt be screened from divine vengeance by the number of those who are in thy condition: for there were but two out of all who had grown to man's estate, that were suffered to enter into the promised land: all the rest were excluded from it, that they might be an example unto us, and might shew us what we are to expect, if we give not up ourselves to the service of Christ. Let me then entreat you all to become followers of Christ, "not in word only, but in deed and in truth." Look to him, that you may experience the full benefits of his redemption. Trust in his blood to cleanse you from your sins: rely on his Spirit to guide you in his ways: and depend on his grace to subdue all your enemies before you. But if you still persist in your rebellion against him, know for a certainty that you shall never see that good land which you profess to expect as your eternal inheritance.]
2. Those who follow the Lord partially
[A profession of religion may in a variety of ways conduce to the good of society, but it will never save the soul. We must follow the Lord fully, if we would find favour with him in the eternal world. It is no small matter to be Christians indeed. What Caleb was under the Law, we must be under the Gospel. The reason of Caleb's acceptance is marked repeatedly, in the strongest terms a. The reason too of the rejection of the others is marked in similar language, and with equal plainness b. And the example of those who perished is set before us by St. Jude, on purpose that the professors of godliness may be admonished by it. O let the admonition sink deep into our hearts! and let us all be stirred up to diligence, that we may be found" Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile!"]
a Josh. xiv. 8, 9, 14. b Numb. xxxii. 10, 11. c Jude, ver. 5.
3. Those who, like Caleb, are following the Lord fully
[Fear not singularity in so good a cause. If you are singular in following the Lord fully, the fault is not yours, but theirs who presume to violate the divine commands. Go on then, though the whole universe should be against you. If God acknowledge you as his servants, you need not regard the censures or the threats of men. You are embarked in a good cause you serve a good Master: you run for a good prize. The land of promise is before you. Press forward for the attainment of it: "Be faithful unto death, and God will give you a crown of life."]
PRESUMPTION OF THE REBELLIOUS ISRAELITES.
Numb. xiv. 44. But they presumed to go up unto the hill-top. THERE are principles in the human heart of which few people are aware. One in particular is, a disposition to withstand the authority of God, whatever his commands may be. We see something of this in children towards their parents: the very circumstance of a thing being enjoined makes them averse to it; and a prohibition immediately creates in them a desire after the thing prohibited. St. Paul represents this to have been his experience in his unconverted state: "Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in him all manner of concupiscence," and made him rise against the commandment, as water does against the dam that obstructs its progress. Such a disposition is not uncommon. There is scarcely any man, who, if he will examine carefully his own conduct, may not find, that he more readily does or forbears any thing in compliance with his own will, than when that thing is the subject of a prohibition or command. This perverse temper was very conspicuous in the Israelites when on the borders of Canaan. Being commanded, importuned, and encouraged to go up and possess the promised land, they could not be prevailed upon to go; but, when they were commanded to return into the wilderness, immediately they changed their minds, and would go against the
Canaanites, even in direct opposition to the will of God. This is called in our text, " presumption:" "they presumed to go up unto the hill-top."
Let us, for the elucidation of this subject, inquire, I. Wherein their presumption consisted-
To believe the promises of God, and to expect the accomplishment of them to our own souls, is considered by many as an evidence of presumption. But presumption is rather the fruit of unbelief. That of which the Israelites were guilty consisted in two things; 1. They went up without the divine presence
[God had told them that he would not go up with them: but they, who had just before despaired of success, even though God himself should fight on their side, now thought they could succeed by the unassisted efforts of their own arm. The folly of such a conceit we easily discern; but are little aware how universally it obtains in reference to spiritual combats. God offers to be with us, and by his almighty power to give us the victory. We persuade ourselves that we have a sufficiency of strength within ourselves, and that we can succeed without any supernatural assistance. Hence we neglect to implore help from God, we refuse to trust in him, and we go forth against our enemies in our own strength
What is this but the very conduct of those rebellious Israelites? The only difference is, that they acted thus in reference to temporal enemies, and an earthly inheritance; whereas we do it, whilst we have all the powers of darkness to contend with, and no less a prize than heaven itself at stake.]
2. They went up in opposition to the divine command
[God had expressly said to them, "Go not up:" and yet they would persist in their resolution. They would not go when they were commanded; but now will go, when they are forbidden. Doubtless they would attempt to vindicate their conduct, by alleging, that the rectifying of their former errors was the best proof of their repentance: and they would persuade themselves that God could never be angry with them for doing that, which he had just punished them for refusing to do. But vain were all such reasonings as these. Their duty was to obey, and not to put their reasonings in opposition to the divine commands. Yet in this we imitate them continually. We find, as we imagine, good reasons why this or that command is not to be obeyed; and then we follow our own will, in direct opposition to God's ---But what presumption
is this! We do not like the way which God has prescribed for us to walk in, and we will go to heaven in our own way. This conduct we may attempt to justify; but God has stamped upon it its true character, as daring and impious presumption.] To form a just estimate of their conduct, let us consider,
II. Wherein it issued
They hoped, no doubt, that they should gain the victory: but their efforts terminated,
1. In painful disappointment—
[They found their enemies, as Moses had foretold, prepared for the encounter: and no sooner did they make the attack, than their courage failed them, and they fled; yea their enemies chased them "like enraged bees," and destroyed them even unto Hormah. This is precisely what they had reason to expect; and what must be expected by all who will presumptuously advance in their own strength. In fact, this is the very thing of which all who depend on their own arm complain. They will not go forward in dependence on the Lord, and in obedience to his commands; but will trust in their own fancied sufficiency to work out their salvation: the consequence is, that, after all their endeavours to mortify sin, and to lead a heavenly life, they cannot do the things which are required of them - -Hence the general complaint, that they who preach the Gospel require of men more than they can perform. But in whom is the fault? Not in those who enforce plainly the commands of God, but in those who, rejecting the offers of God's all-sufficient grace, attempt to gain the victory by an arm of flesh.]
2. In fruitless sorrow
[The fugitive hosts "returned and wept before the Lord: but the Lord would not hearken to their voice, nor give ear unto them." Now they regretted their former disobedience, and prayed that the sentence denounced against them might be reversed. If God would but try them once more, they would do whatsoever he should command. But their doom was sealed: yea, in this very defeat, it had already been begun to be executed. Many were slain; and God had decreed that every one of them, except Caleb and Joshua, should die in the wilderness. Like Esau therefore, "they found no place of repentance, though they sought it carefully with tears."
What an affecting representation is this of the final issue of disobedience to the world at large! When once their doom is sealed, how bitterly will they regret their past folly and wicked
ness! O, if they could but have another opportunity afforded them, how gladly would they embrace it! how resolutely would they obey the voice of God! they would no more presumptuously prefer their own will and way to his, but would obey him cheerfully and without reserve. But in vain are all such desires their sentence is irrevocably passed: and all possibility of attaining the heavenly inheritance is gone for ever. Nothing now remains for them but to " weep and wail and gnash their teeth" for anguish, and to die that death, that second death, which they were not careful to avoid.] The subject will give me a fit occasion to ADDRESS, 1. Those who are afraid of presumption
[Many there are who dread presumption, and who, through a fear of it, are deterred from applying to themselves the rich consolations of the Gospel: they think it would be presumptuous in such weak and sinful creatures as they to expect all the great things which God has promised to his people
But, be it known unto you that it is no presumption to believe in God, or trust in God, even though you were the weakest and the vilest of the human race. If indeed you were to profess a confidence in him, whilst you were living in wilful and allowed sin, that would be presumption: but, if you truly desire to devote yourselves to God, and to be saved by him in his appointed way, the deeper sense you have of your own unworthiness, the more assuredly shall you receive from him all the blessings of a complete salvation ——— -]
2. Those who indulge presumption
[Of those who determinately go on in their own way, we have already spoken: and therefore we shall pass them over with only entreating them to remember what they have already heard to be the issue of such conduct. But there are even amongst those who profess religion, many who are guilty of very great presumption. What is it but presumption, to run into needless temptations, in hopes that God will keep us? O that the worldly-minded would consider this, when they are grasping after preferment or gain! O that they would consider it, who mix so readily with carnal company, and conform so easily to the maxims and habits of a vain world! O that the impure and sensual would consider it, when they give such liberty to their eyes and tongue! Beloved Brethren, we must not tempt God: but, retaining a sense of our extreme weakness and sinfulness, we must watch and pray that we enter not into temptation. Let this then be our daily prayer, "Keep thy servant, O Lord, from presumptuous sins, lest they get dominion over me:" and "Preserve me blameless unto thy heavenly kingdom :" "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe."]