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and Christians, gaining confidence from the knowledge of their numbers and their union, would be better able to resist the numbers, always, alas! sure to be sufficiently visible; and the union, not avowed indeed, but real for all purposes of mischief, of those who are the servants of evil.



JEREMIAH xxxvi. 23.

And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, the king cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

In the two lessons from the Old Testament, chosen for this day's service, we have a picture of the two extremes of obedience and disobedience, standing in strong contrast to each other. I call the case of the Rechabites the extreme of obedience; for it appears that they were not strictly bound to observe the rules which their ancestor had laid down for them, inasmuch as no man can pretend to bind his posterity to any one particular manner of living; yet still, from respect to his memory and to the example of their own immediate parents, the descendants of that Jehonadab, the

son of Rechab, who lived in the reign of Jehu, continued to practise his commands nearly three hundred years afterwards, in the reign of Jehoiakim. Nor is it to the purpose to decide whether Jehonadab's commands were in themselves wise or no; or whether, in a similar case, if such an one could be found, a man's descendants in our days would do right in keeping his regulations. The story is not applicable, nor meant to be applied, as a particular rule, but as a general one; and as such, it declares that the habit of obedience, of giving up our own will to the will of others, even when there is no absolute duty requiring us to do so, is most pleasing in the sight of God and in close conformity to the mind of Christ.

On the other hand, the story of Jehoiakim's burning the roll represents the extreme of disobedience. The roll which Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah contained, in the first place, commands very different in themselves from those delivered by Jehonadab to the Rechabites. It did not contain commands about things, in their own nature, indifferent, such as drinking no wine, and living in tents; it was a charge to fulfil the simple and universal duty of turning from evil and following good. It matters not from whom we receive

such a charge as this; whether it come from the wisest man alive, or the most foolish; whether it be delivered with every circumstance of outward authority, or found scattered by the way side. The charge to remember our duty is one which our conscience bids us immediately obey, without any regard whatever to the worthiness of the person from whom we receive it. But, in the next place, the roll which Jehoiakim burnt not only contained commands very different in their own nature from those of Jehonadab to the Rechabites, but commands recommended also by a very different authority. They were not the directions of a man to his remote posterity, who may be born centuries after he is dead; of whose condition he can know nothing, and to whom he cannot in right pretend to prescribe his laws; but they were the commands of the everlasting God, to whom all things past and to come are for ever present; his commands to the creatures whom he had made, to the people whom he had chosen, spoken by the mouth of his acknowledged prophet. Yet again, God's commands, we know, are too often disobeyed; but in the case of Jehoiakim, they were disobeyed avowedly, and with scorn. It was not the language of him who said, I

will, though he afterwards went not; not the language of ordinary sin, breaking its own resolutions, yet condemning itself the while; but of sin with a high hand, sin open and blasphemous, which takes its part declaredly with the enemies of God, and stakes its all upon the issue.

Now, between these two cases, thus brought into contrast with one another almost within the same page, the conduct of the great mass of mankind is always hovering. Few equal the extreme of obedience set forth on the one hand, as few the extreme of disobedience set forth on the other. Thousands who disobey the Bible every day would shrink from the thought of burning it in utter defiance. Thousands who will do what they see to be just and reasonable will make no scruple of breaking a command which seems to them, in its own nature, indifferent. There is little need to speak against open blasphemy here, nor is it to the purpose to hold up literally the example of the Rechabites' obedience; but it will be to the purpose to show how much we are wanting in the principle of obedience, and how we thus come to insult God almost as really, though not so openly, as Jehoiakim when he burnt the roll.

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