Israelites, and Their Inheritane
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, March 18th, 1849
METHINKS not a few of my hearers exclaim, "What a privileged character, if all this pertains to them! What a privileged character! not only to be adopted by Jehovah into His family, and recognized as sons and daughters, trained, educated, and provided for as His Church, but glorious in their portion, and not only glorious in their portion, but secure in the covenant; and not only have they this security of inheritance, but all that pertains to the law, the whole service of God instituted for them, and all the promises of God in Christ Jesus the Lord." If any estate on earth could be considered hereditary, if I may so speak, and set forth as entailed from generation to generation, upon a certain family, would it not be an enviable thing to share in such a portion? And you will mark, it would put all doubt aside relative to that portion, if once the adoption was proved, if once the family relationship was settled, if once the affinity could be established. The very first sentence of my text leads us to this point in the investigation, "Who are Israelites?"
Those who were present at the time, will recollect the remarks which I made upon the opening verses of the chapter, in which Paul breathes forth his vehement desire relative to the Jews, his own kindred, declaring he had continual sorrow in his heart on their behalf, and the Holy Ghost bearing witness to this exercise of faith. Then immediately again he says, that he could wish himself accursed from Christ for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, whom he desired to see brought home. And then, in order to describe them and their inheritance, he says, "Who are Israelites." I once thought of putting this in the form of a question, "Who are Israelites?" (although this is not the original design). "Who are Israelites?" But what is said three or four verses down? "They are not all Israel which are of Israel." And while he sets out the temporal privileges of his brethren, he keeps in view, and eyes with the deepest interest, the real Israel of God, the true circumcision, the children of Abraham according to the promise; for, as we read in the chapter at the commencement of the service, "The children of the flesh are not the children of the promise;" (Rom. 9:8) or, in plain terms, we are told those who are of the faith of Abraham are heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:29)
It is my intention, first of all, to direct your attention to the national description of character of the Israelites; then, secondly, to look well to their ordained privileges, which are enumerated in the language I have read; and, thirdly, to ask with great earnestness about the obligations they are laid under towards God, the gratitude and praise due to the Most High for such distinguishing mercy.
I. My first point is, indeed, of the highest importance; and I should like to take the liberty, as I first hinted, of putting it in the form of an interrogation, and, looking around at my congregation, ask, "Who among you are Israelites, who amongst those who listen to my voice today are Israelites?" because "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises," have nothing to do with you, nor you with them, unless you are Israelites. Oh that this distinction were better known and kept up in the world! We should not then have ungodly men meddling with sacred things as they do now. To Israelites, and to Israelites only, pertain the adoption and the promises. I do not care to ask of what nation they are. I do not care what their position or standing in society, or of what colour they may be, no, nor to what creed or denomination they may belong, I do not care a straw about your denominations. My only inquiry shall be directed to the national character set forth in my text, the Israelites, and who are they. You know there were some in the olden time, who were true Israelites not literally the descendants of Abraham, but they became Israelites indeed by spiritual descent. Now let us look to the language of the text for an explanation of the term, for the sake of an illustration. The tribes of Israel are the descendants of one covenant Head. That was their prominent mark, their distinguishing characteristic. Even as late as the days in which our Lord tabernacled on the earth, they said, "We have Abraham our father;" and looked back to the one appointed covenant Head as the representative of a very far superior covenant Head; for you remember when God is said to have covenanted with Abraham, it was but a repetition of that covenant confirmed before of God in Christ. Then Abraham was the typical representative of a covenant Head, and Christ Himself was from everlasting the covenant Head of all the true Israel of God.
This is the grand instruction intended to be set forth in all that is said of the tribes of Abraham literally. While they were descended from one covenant Head, they carried distinct standards and banners as they marched through the wilderness; and well they might, when you come to look at such a vast company of six hundred thousand men, besides women and children, passing through the Red Sea and across the desert, six hundred thousand men, a mighty army, but they were divided into tribes and families, for the sake of order, just as military forces are divided into regiments, and squadrons, and companies, under different officers. So the Israelites marched through the desert. They were in order, in rotation, and an express command was given, which tribe should march first, and which second, that no confusion might arise, but that all might be maintained in order. And yet all these twelve tribes constituted but one Israel of God.
Just so under the gospel dispensation. We might enumerate many tribes, and speak of them as marching across the desert. But the only one point concerning them is, whether they are descended from one and the same covenant Head, whether they are the offspring of Christ, whether they are born of God, whether they are really and truly His seed according to the grace of God and the covenant settlement of eternity. No matter whether they be of the tribe of Judah or of Benjamin. The question is, whether they are the descendants of one covenant Head, born of God, partakers of the life Divine, really regenerated, new creatures in Christ Jesus. None but these are Israelites. It is very true that if, according to our fleshly feelings, one might be allowed to make a choice, I should have made choice of the tribe of Judah. And why? Because it was faithful with God, and always went first. And I confess I am very fond of being in the front rank. I am anxious to be ahead in spirituality of all those we meet with on the way to God in glory. I would be ahead of all these tribes, though I would hail them as brethren and fellow-tribes. I cannot bear to be in the rear, I confess. I would march forward, but that is as God pleases to let me. So long as I march with the tribes, I can claim affinity with the covenant Head, to belong to the original stock, the grand source of all the Christianity ever known in the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.
One word more. Those Israelites are the very persons who have the security, distinction, and mark of the circumcision among them. Now the apostle tells us, in his epistle to the Philippians (using the very figure), what the true circumcision is. He says it is not the circumcision after the flesh, but the circumcision without hands. And he says, we are the persons, an exceedingly bold word to use. But who? We, "which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Now, what think you of the claim to be an Israelite? Look well to it. Here is an accurate description of them "Worship God in the spirit." This is the true circumcision "worship God in the spirit." The things are here implied, in the Spirit's power, and in the exercise of the graces of the Holy Ghost. "Worship God in the spirit." This would include the matter of fact, that every act of worship, that is really such, is dictated by the Holy Ghost, and is proof positive that the Holy Ghost dwells in that man, calling forth and putting into exercise His own graces, revealing the fullness of Christ by His teaching, and presenting before the throne of God, the prayer and praise of the family of God. But here is another sense which you should look well into. It is that of having all the powers of the soul brought under the mighty operation of the Holy Spirit's graces, to distinguish theirs from what is termed fashionable religion. When this is well understood, all the faculties of the soul with which man is created are brought under the powerful operation of faith, of love, of humility, and meekness, and hope, and patience; and under the mighty influence of these graces the soul is led out to be engaged intimately with God. Oh, how I wish I could command language to tell you what I feel of this, how I wish I could tell you how this goes on sometimes in my poor soul, everything pertaining to the will, the affections, the desire, the judgment, the understanding, all that pertains to man as a created being, brought under the mighty influence of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Now the main point here between the Israelites and the strangers, the mixed multitude around them, is simply this, they bring, by dint of human effort, all their natural faculties into some kind of employment in and about religious things, while those that worship God in the spirit have those very faculties which others use as an act of nature, brought supernaturally under the power and constraining operation of the Holy Ghost, the mighty movements of all His graces, engaging them supernaturally with God.
I hope I have been fully understood in this particular, and would that I could make it still plainer. To "worship God in the spirit" and to rejoice in Christ Jesus, in His person, in His official character, in His perfect work, in His covenant Headship, in His relationship, with intimate and affectionate intercourse. The Israelite rejoices in Christ. Those of the true circumcision are declared to have renounced all confidence of the flesh. They know the creature so well, they have done with all dependence on the creature, they have learned the solemn lesson, that he who trusts his own heart is a fool (and he must be a fool indeed to trust any one else's heart if he cannot trust his own). These are the true circumcision; consequently they are Israelites.
Take another characteristic in describing this national character. Who are Israelites? They were emancipated and elevated. Their emancipation did not make them Israelites, but proved them to be such. Now if you will go down to Egypt, if you will content yourself there, if you will approximate as much as possible to the Egyptian habits and manners, there will be some difficulty in distinguishing you. If you will assimilate with the world, do not wonder that you are reckoned of the world. If you pursue their course, do not be surprised if we set you down as abiding in the broad road. If the practices and pursuits, and the religion of worldlings, satisfy you, do not pretend to be Israelites. Israel's emancipation was wrought with a high hand. I do not believe the tribes of Israel would have left the Egyptian bondage to this day if God had left them to their own free will. Even when the deliverance was going on they hesitated. Again and again it is declared that God brought them out with a high hand and outstretched arm. It is His own mighty work to separate and distinguish the saints from the world, and bring them out from the slavery of Satan, the service of sin, the thraldom of their taskmasters, to pursue their marked course, the heavenly road to the everlasting Canaan.
Moreover, not only was this emancipation accomplished, but an elevation of character goes along with it. I know the worldlings do not like this idea, but they must have it, whether they like it or not. All the worldlings are in a state of degradation. They are not all Israelites who are of Israel. I shall have a word to say on this point under the second head, but I will here for one moment glance at the fact that the families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were distinguished and dignified above all the nations of the world, all of whom were lying in the grossest idolatry, addicted to the most beastly practices (I may say devilish), utter strangers to the God of Israel, unknown to Him, and He to them, as regards any intercourse, and therefore Jehovah says to the Israelites, "You only have I known (that is with distinguishing knowledge) of all the families of the earth." (Amos 3:2)
I beseech you to mark this, because this fundamental principle is the very principle which is warred against almost continually. Men like the system of amalgamation, and want a church of the world's building. They talk of all the nations of the earth being one blood. Granted, in Adam. But it is the elect family, the household of faith, the chosen, peculiar people of God, concerning whom Jehovah says, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." I know there is a muttering from the free-willers about this, but that will not deter me from speaking out these great truths. Sure I am, that every incident around us in society confirms this grand doctrine; and if you reason against it, look at the facts around you. How is it? Look into what neighbourhood you will, even in the most favoured parts of this metropolis, and where will you find more than one here and there who knows the Lord, more than one here and there who is born again? Is not the great bulk of mankind, even immediately around us, sunk in carnality, given over to selfish gratifications, as ignorant of God as the brute creation? Does not this fact tell at once that there is a remnant according to the election of grace? And these are the dignified family of whom it is testified under the Mosaic economy, that they had God dwelling among them, and walking in the midst of their camp. God, being their God by visible manifestation, directed and commanded them. That you will say was a theocracy. Yes, the true Church of God is a theocracy. The Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King, and His people are dignified and elevated above all others. No other nation wears such robes, no other nation feasts upon such viands, no other nation is so rich as the nation that serves the living God. What think you? May I put as a question the language used in the text? Who are the Israelites? Who are the real descendants of Christ? Who among you have the real circumcision of the heart, that brings you to worship God in spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus? Who among you are free of the world, liberated from sin and from Satan's chain? Who among you are dignified to walk with God, to hold conversation with heaven, and to trust wholly to the Saviour? These are Israelites. I wanted to be as explicit as I could on this first point, because of the ordained privileges of the Lord's people. I do not like God's family to be deprived of that doctrine. When they went out of Egypt, with great reluctance, and after a partial consent had been given by Pharaoh, he wanted to detain the children, he wanted them to be left behind, in order that he might have hundreds and thousands of them to train up as slaves. What is the answer? "We will go with our wives and our little ones." I like the notice of the "little ones" in this sense, because "little ones," if Israelites, and born of God, have an interest in all the privileges I am about to mention, in His adoption connected with His glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.
II. What a rich display of paternal love! what a vast store of the everlasting inheritance is opened to them! The adoption of love, the adoption consequent upon love, the adoption into the Lord's family as spiritual Israelites, proves them to be Israelites not only outwardly but inwardly, and the circumcision which is of the heart (Deut. 30:6) puts aside and casts down for ever all the distinctions between Jew and Gentile when Christ Himself becomes the King.
What then are we to understand by the adoption? There are two prominent features of it, that which is secret, and that which is manifest. That which is secret is the sole act of paternal love in the ancient settlements of the covenant in which the Son of God was chosen as the elder Brother, and in which the whole election of grace, the whole family of God, the whole of the seed of Christ, the regenerated children of God, have their names written in the book of life; and every one of the family, even down to the little babe, embosomed in Deity, entrusted to Christ, and registered by the Holy Ghost. Now a word about that which is manifest, the second feature of it. "Because ye are sons," (Gal. 4:6) saith the Holy Ghost by the apostle, by secret adoption, by secret covenant appointment, by predestinating enactment "because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts," that you may cry, "Abba Father." The spirit of adoption don't make them sons, because they are sons already. These distinctions are too often confounded, confused. Look closely to the matter. I said a little while ago, that the coming of the people out of Egypt did not make them Israelites, but proved them such. If so, the spirit of adoption moving the soul of the real Christian, enabling the real Christian to deal with God with all the familiarity of a child, with all the boldness of a child, with all the affection of a child, with all the reverence of a child, with all the bright anticipations of a child, does not make him a child. Because he is a child, that spirit of adoption is bestowed. It is one of the ordained privileges of the family of God, that we are first convinced of the sinnership, and made to feel our relationship to Adam; and many a sinner awakened by the Spirit of God, cries, like the publican, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" before he gets pardon for his sins; and when he does, he gets his privilege opened, and that does not satisfy him until he gets it opened wide enough to receive his adoption: and I envy not that professing Christian who can content himself with anything short of being able to say, "Thou, Lord, art my Father." But this may be called presumption. Hear, however, what He says. God the Father says, "Thou shalt call me Father, and shalt not turn away from me." (Jer. 3:19) God the Son says, "when you pray, say, our Father." God the Holy Ghost, giving the spirit of adoption, constrains us to says, "Abba Father." God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, have promised, commanded, and constrained us; and I believe that we to whom pertain the adoption and the glory, are living very far beneath our privileges.
Not to detain you any longer upon the adoption, but to proceed with the glory. Why all the things I have named were the glory; but there was one peculiar glory. God grant each of us may never be without itthe adoption and the glory. The glory was the ark which contained the tables of the covenant, and upon which was placed the mercy seat; just to intimate all their treasure was in that ark, that all the mercy that could ever be obtained by Israel, was in the covenant, that Jehovah promised there to meet with them, and commune with them: and therefore when the Philistines prevailed in good old Eli's days, and the ark of the Lord was taken, there was a lamentable memorial instituted, for the child then born was named Ichabod, which signifies, "the glory is departed."
Then the ark was their glory. May I ask what has become of the ark now? Among the great bulk of professors, may I ask where is the ark? the glory of the Church? I hear of mercy preached, I hear of mercy urged, I hear of mercy to be sought, I hear of the blood of the atonement, I hear of Christ the Saviour, of His ability to save, but where do I hear of there being the ark as the glory of the Church? To the Israelites pertained the adoption and the glory, the glory of their distinction from all the nations of the earth, the glory of their provision sent down from heaven, the glory of their appearance, the glory of their God, and the captain of their salvation in their midst. When God threatened to allow their enemies to vanquish and destroy them, Moses interceded, saying, "What wilt thou do to thy great name?"
Now the glory of the true Israel of God in a gospel sense, in a spiritual point of view, is that the covenant relationship is known, the adoption secretly held first by the Father, and manifest in the midst of the people. To whom pertain the legitimate rights; to whom (for the term is introduced in the plural) pertain the covenants. I know some say it is given in the plural to intimate the frequency of its renewal, that it was confirmed of God in Christ, that it was revealed and published to Abraham, that it was repeated to Jacob, and so on to the tribes. Those who content themselves with that supposition may, but I consider it too superficial. I understand by it all the covenants; the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. Don't be alarmed. What, say you, the covenant of works really pertaining to Israel? I don't mean to part with either. My Master said He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it; and I rejoice to know that both covenants pertain to the Israel of God. The covenant of works I love, because it is fulfilled. The covenant of grace I love, because it is confirmed. The covenant of works is so fulfilled, that it cannot curse me; it cannot ask a farthing of me, it cannot claim any merit even at me hand. The covenant of grace gives me all, secures me all, unfolds to me all I can desire; ratifies and confirms all God has to bestow, and that the awakened soul of a regenerated Israelite can receive. Then I like both covenants. I don't care about having them in gold letters upon a black ground; but I wish them to be written and engraven in the heart, inscribed there by the finger of God, never to be removed. I believe the law and the gospel are much nearer akin in point of beauty and glory than many suppose. I don't want to see either of them tarnished. My Lord said, "if they had believed Moses they would have believed Me." Theirs is the covenant of works. I rejoice in my lot in it, in that it pertains to me. There is a glory in it.
Moreover, it is somewhat remarkable that both these covenants are set forth by the apostle as condensed in one word, love. Love is the fulfilling of the law. All the law is concentrated in that word. Besides, we all know that the gospel is love; because it originates in the love of God the Father, it centers in the love of Jesus for the Church, is made known in the love of the Spirit, and constrains the soul that is its recipient to love the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in a covenant sense. I therefore rejoice in these covenants.
Now pause a moment just to reflect on the sweet features of the ordained privileges of the Israelites. And don't forget to ask the question, Who are Israelites? Now what is it a child won't ask of a father? What is it a child does not expect a father to do, if he is conscious he has the ability to do it? What is it that a father is not ready to do? If ye know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to you. What a privilege then to stand distinct and apart from the world, and to be recognized of Jehovah as His child; and for me to be brought to recognize Him as my Father. Oh precious privilege! Look at what the apostle says, "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint, heirs with Christ." (Rom. 8:17) Such is the sacred portion, the holy heavenly charter of all Christians. Let us look for another moment at the covenants. The first was a covenant of works; and to a very great extent included the possession of Canaan. The second, the covenant of grace, is from everlasting to everlasting, and secures the heavenly Canaan. Obedience to the first was the condition upon which they occupied the land of Canaan; and though some people think they will regain it. Sure I am that when Jehovah gives His people the spirit of adoption, and makes them participate in the covenant of grace, the locality in which they shall enjoy it will be a matter of indifference.
When I asked a person, the other day, what he thought of the Holy Land, his reply was, "Why, I think I can enjoy Jesus Christ as well in England as in the Holy Land." I replied, "And I think so too, and if you go, I would not go with you."
Moreover the covenants are fulfilled. All that pertained to matters of life and death in the covenant of works is transferred to Christ. He fulfilled them, satisfied them, honoured them all. The first covenant is done away with as regards all its terms and conditions, and we look at it as fulfilled. But the second covenant stands for ever. It is an everlasting covenant, and in that justification, righteousness, sanctity, the adoption of privileges are secured, infallible as the God that made it, without a condition, without a contingency. Oh, what a blessing to be of the Israelites, to whom pertaineth the covenants.
Moreover, to the Israelites pertaineth the giving of the law, and the service of God is connected with it. I do not think it worth while to detain you to inquire whether it is the national law, or the moral law given by Moses, or the ceremonial law, or the law of life, of liberty, of faith, of love, and the other laws mentioned in the New Testament. I think they all come under this one phrase. You will here bear with me if I use some severity. To whom pertaineth the service of God? It does not pertain to the world. The service of God pertains to the Israelites. And I beseech you to mark how very tenacious the law is on this point. No uncircumcised person, no unclean person was to be allowed to participate in the service of God, none that had even touched a dead body. How many of my congregation are dead all the week? The giving of the law, the moral law, the ceremonial law, every where points to the gospel privileges, so that they belong to the Israelites. I want the people of God to know, whatever phraseology may be adopted, that the service, the worship of the living God pertains to them only.
I can conceive of nothing more offensive to the God of heaven, nothing more emphatically a direct mockery of the Most High, than for persons to pretend to have to do with the service of God, who are strangers to God, and know nothing of God. I can have no objection to ungodly persons being brought within our assemblies. I am always glad to hear that ungodly persons will lend an ear to the proclamation of God's truth. But to take any part in the service of God, to attempt to mimic prayer and praise, and more especially to attempt to mimic the priest's office, and to go back to Jewish offices, the whole is a mockery of God. When Uzziah went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense, "It appertaineth not unto thee," said the holy man of God, "to burn incense unto the Lord." I would say to every carnal man that dare stand up in the pulpit, I would say to every carnal man who dares to assume anything like Christianity, and to put himself forth as if possessing the qualification to be a servant of God, "it pertaineth not to thee;" and if he would not receive this testimony, I would bring forth the Psalmist, who says, "What hast thou to do? to declare my statutes." It pertaineth not to the ungodly. The great curse of the world has been to put religion upon those who have it not in their hearts. The great pest of society is in the devil's church standing hostile to God, while the ministers of the devil transform themselves, in external appearance, into the ministers of the living God. Bear with my warmth on this point. The Church of God will never have peace so long as this wicked system is allowed to continue. It pertaineth not to those I have described. Again I ask, "Who are Israelites?" It pertaineth to the Israelites, who claim the adoption; it pertaineth to the Israelites to exult in the security of the covenant, it pertaineth to the Israelites to attend to the service of God, the living service of the living God. Oh, the vast importance of looking well to this principle. I do trust, and humbly hope, and fervently pray that the convulsions which have recently taken place in the world, and which I suppose were never equalled, will terminate in this one grand point, will draw a distinct line between the Church of God and the world; and in drawing that line, I trust the election of grace, the regenerated persons of all the tribes of Israel who have descended from one covenant Head, will be so hemmed in on one side of the line, and so separated from the world, that they will be obliged to love one another, and that there will be one fold and one shepherd. I have seen a fold sometimes so large that the sheep could lay down in the corners in little companies, and as distinct as if they did not belong to one another. But I would make the fold so close that they should touch each other with pure hearts fervently; and that I believe will be the result of the convulsions that will shake all nations yet more terribly. Oh, then, the vast importance of looking to these ordained privileges, to have a legitimate right in them. If they are really mine, I cannot be robbed of them, I cannot mortgage them, I cannot sell them.
It is flagrant dishonestly for men to appropriate to themselves property which does not pertain to them; and the more valuable the property the more daring is the dishonesty of appropriating it. How flagrant then is the dishonesty of those uncircumcised, unregenerate men who assume the name of Israelites (Christians) without possessing one feature of their character! And still worse to usurp the exclusive right to officiate in the service of God, while destitute of every spiritual qualification for that service; and without one evidence that God has called them thereto. Let all such read the warning which Moses gave to their prototypes, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, "The Lord will show who are His, and who is holy, and will cause him to come unto Him, even him whom He hath chosen will He cause to come near unto Him." (Num. 16:5) So notoriously offensive was the conduct of these pretenders to the things which pertained not to them, that it is referred to again and again as the very climax of wickedness; and the apostle Jude was taught to give the finishing touch to their awful portraiture, which makes the exact likeness of the modern carnal priesthood, "Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." (Jude 11) Whether it be rulers or dignitaries, or clerical officials, or nonconforming teachers, who rush into sacred things which pertain not to them, and which they never possess in their own souls, they are but Satan's agents to deceive souls, religious automatons, moving mechanically without life, and incapable of the society of the living, especially of the living God.
One thing more in this statement of our privileges, and that is the extent of the promises. "To whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises." Better still. After all that is possessed, and all that is enjoyed, and all that the Israelites are enabled to feel when they enter into the spiritual service of God, yet are there promises exceedingly great and precious in store, promises yet to be fulfilled, promises yet to be enjoyed, promises adapted to every case, promises suited to every circumstance, promises for birth, promises for life, promises for elevation, promises for humility, promises for health, promises for sickness, promises for death "For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him, amen, unto the glory of God by us." (2 Cor. 1:20) And thus they pertain to us. I wonder how you can be so presumptuous, some of my hearers may think, but it is of no very great consequence. If I turn over my Bible I would write my name against every promise, as each seems to be just suited and adapted to the peculiar exigencies of the moment. I have it from God, that promise pertains to me, it pertains to my soul, I will bring it to be cashed, I will bring it to be fulfilled. I turn it upside, and down, and in all directions, and read, "Yea and amen," and I cannot find "Nay." It is truly mine. It describes exactly what I want, and I love God for it, and present to Him in prayer my requests.
III. Now, in the last place, let us personally inquire, Who are Israelites? Paul said, "Are they Israelites? So am I." If he were here I would say, Let me stand side by side with thee." If I am an Israelite, I hear what the apostle says by the Holy Ghost "Even so we should also walk in newness of life." That is the Scripture phrase. It is not one of my coining. The Holy Ghost has set it before us. "Even so we should also walk in newness of life." Now do not let us have the old life so conspicuous, worldly-mindedness, earthly-mindedness, selfishness, pride, but a newness of life, a new atmosphere. I hear people sometimes say, when they are a little indisposed, "Nothing will do me good but a change of air." I think all Adam's race so indisposed that nothing will do them good but a change of air; and would that God would bring multitudes into the atmosphere of His living Church, into communion and fellowship with Him; and then they will walk in newness of life, new company, new associations, new employments. It is written, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," or, as it might be rendered, "a new creation;" and then it is said that "old things are passed away, behold all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17) What is there about you and me in the eye of the world, in the eye of the Church, that amounts to walking in newness of life, devoting our powers, our energies, our time, our influence, all we possess, to the glorifying of Him who has newly created us? Even so we should also walk in newness of life. Surely if all the things I have been enumerating pertain to us as Israelites, in the covenant of grace, nothing ought to be reserved from Him who has bestowed all these things upon us. It should be our deep concern to ask whether all our powers are wholly yielded, surrendered, and employed for the glory of our precious Christ. If the service of the Lord pertaineth to you and to me, let it be not merely in acts of worship, but in acts of devotedness to His glory, un using every effort to extend the triumph of Christ and of His kingdom.
Acts of worship must be pure and spiritual to be acceptable to God; and in order to this, they must not only be inspired in the soul by the Holy Ghost, but they must pass through the censer of the great High Priest above, within the veil, in whose merits alone they can be received at the throne; and where such acts of worship are habitual, they will fan the flame of affection to the one great object of worship, and consequently such worshippers cannot but feel a lively interest in the cause of God upon earth. It is a shame for the slaves of Satan to be more active and liberal in his interests than the servants of God are in advancing His kingdom. What! shall Philistines bestow more upon Dagan than Israelites do upon Jehovah's cause? God forbid. What! professing Christians spend more time and money in dress, in gossiping, or in scraping together sordid dust, than in spreading the truth of God, promoting the worship of God, or in assisting the people of God? Oh, "tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice!"
Shall Ammonites and Moabites, who only mimic the worship of Israelites, be more diligent in their superstitions and idolatries than the chosen tribes are in their holy ordinances of Divine appointment? Shall Papists, Puseylites, and Pharisees, who only ape Christianity, be more zealous in practicing their deceptions and spreading their delusions than real Christians who possess the life of God in their souls, and who are interested in the adoption and the glory, the covenants, the services of God, and the promises, are in their efforts to spread vital godliness and diffuse pure truth throughout the world? Oh, that the Spirit were poured out from on high upon the living Churches and the living people of God, so as to constrain them to attend to the Saviour's injunction, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness;" and to the apostle's exhortation, "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God with your body and with your spirit, which are His." Then should we witness more of that newness of life which distinguishes believers from unbelievers, and which puts to silence the ignorance of foolish men, bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, which are, by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.
One word more. If to us pertain all these privileges, surely the tribute He Himself demands in one short sentence, cannot be withheld, if we are living like Israelites. And if you join with the apostle, "Are they Israelites? So am I "I ask whether that one sovereign claim has been conceded, "Come out from the world, and be separated, touch not the unclean, and I will receive you." (2 Cor. 6:17) Blessed be God's name that He will receive us at last, as Israelites in the land of promise, there to be employed in His praise, to enjoy the privileges I have named, to the fullest extent, and to be owned the Israel of God through all eternity. Israelites were commanded of old to preserve their distinction, from all other nations, sacred; and thus the Divine injunction runs, "Thou shalt make no covenant with them, neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter shall thou not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son, for they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods." (Deut. 7:3) How little is this solemn injunction regarded, especially when the golden bait is held up to view! How often is conscience, creed, and comfort, sacrificed at the shrine of Mammon, and the most fatal connections formed for lucrative purposes! Oh, ye Israelites, mingle not with the heathen, lest ye learn their ways, and become idolaters! Your God is a Spirit, your family is spiritual, your privileges are spiritual your prospects are spiritual. Then do remember, that, to be carnally-minded is death; but, to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.
May the Lord God of Israel keep you near to Himself, and distinct from the world, until you reach the heavenly Canaan, where none but Israelites dwell, and His name shall have all the praise for ever and ever. Amen.