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Joshua 4:1-24 -

The memorial.

Prom this chapter we learn several lessons.

I. THE DUTY OF COMMEMORATING , BY A PIOUS MEMORIAL , THE GOOD THINGS GOD HAS DONE FOR US . The memory of events under the law was ever kept up in this way. The memorials of God's mercy we read of in the Old Testament are innumerable. There was circumcision, the memorial of God's covenant with Abraham; the stone set up at Bethel, the memorial of Jacob's vision. There was the passover, the memorial of the deliverance from Egypt; the manna and Aaron's rod in the ark; the memorial of the miraculous feeding of the Israelites in the wilderness; and the selection of the progeny of Aaron for the high priesthood. Thus we have the memorial here mentioned of the passage of Jordan, and the memorial of the victory over the Philistines in 1 Samuel 7:12 . National deliverances also were commemorated by annual feasts. Such was the feast of Purim, the establishment of which is recorded in Esther 9:20-32 . Our Lord gives His sanction to the principle in the institution of the sacrament of Holy Communion, and the Christian Church has made it her own by the establishment of festivals like Easter, Whitsuntide, Christmas, and the like. The same principle is at work in the erection of memorial churches and other means of commemorating great mercies, or the lives of good men. But the principle is capable of extension. It seems a little ungrateful that we as a nation, or even the members of our religious bodies, think so little of commemorating God's signal mercies and deliverances by special days of thanksgiving. The observance of such days as January 30th, May 29th, November 5th may have assumed too political and party a character, but there are surely other days of national blessings which, if observed as days of thanksgiving, would not be open to the same objections. At least we may go so far as this. Gratitude, in the Old Testament, was testified by outward signs. Where those outward signs are wanting among our. selves, it is to be feared that the gratitude is wanting also. The country ought to be covered with memorials of national and local as well as individual mercies. Days of recognition of such mercies to the empire, or particular parts of the empire, should be more common than they are. Our unhappy divisions, or even the fear of aggravating those divisions, should not withhold us from publicly recognising what in our hearts we believe to be acts of God's gracious providence over us. A stranger going through our country should have frequent occasion to ask, "What mean these?" and should repeatedly receive the answer, "These are the memorials of the great things God did for us in our fathers' days, and in the old time before them."

II. THESE MEMORIALS TEND TO STIR UP A SPIRIT OF PIETY AND GRATITUDE . There is no more frequent speech recorded in connection with memorials, whether buildings or festivals, than the supposition of an inquiry regarding their nature on the part of the young, and of an answer on the part of parents explaining it. Now the abstract facts of history make but a faint impression on the young, while a noble building or a remarkable observance attracts their attention at once. It is an old heathen proverb," Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus." It is surely a matter of Christian prudence to stir up as early as possible in the minds of the young an interest in the truths of religion, and of the history of their country and Church. This is done, as regards Christian doctrine, by the increased attention given to the commemoration of the chief events in the life of Christ at the great Christian festivals. But much more might be done. How much of our decreasing respect for the Reformation may be traced to our neglect of some sort of yearly commemoration of those who laid down their lives for it, is a question. How much our very faint sense of the mercies of God to this country, and in particular to the wonderful salvation God vouchsafed to us in the destruction of the Spanish Armada, is due to the same cause, may also be a question. As regards the latter, it is perhaps not too much to say that scarcely one educated Englishman out of ten, and no uneducated one, has any idea from what vast perils we, as a nation, have been delivered by that one event. And in spite of the many signal mercies we have received, and in spite of the great things God has wrought for us in granting us the character we enjoy for fairness, uprightness, respect for liberty and law, and in spite of the vast and extended dominion He has placed in our hands, our sense of gratitude to God for these things seems diminishing daily. We shall do well to ask ourselves how much of it is due to a neglect of the principle laid down in this chapter regarding the wisdom of memorials of past blessings which shall induce the young to ask what they mean, and shall enable us, in reply to their question, to incite them to "praise the Lord for his mercies, and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men."

III. EVERY TRIBE TOOK PART IN THE WORK . The principle above contended for is capable of misapplication. The multiplication of party or sectarian memorials of animosity and ill feeling would be an evil, rather than a blessing. Even memorials of the Reformers, or of so great a national deliverance such as that to which we have just referred, might easily, as is the case in Ireland, be made occasions of strife. But this applies rather to the abuse than the use of them. In modern days of freedom of thought there could hardly exist a single anniversary the propriety of which would be questioned by no one. To keep only such anniversaries as no one objected to, would be to keep none at all. But care should be taken that all memorials of this kind should be

IV. WE ARE ALL EQUALLY BOUND TO DECLARE WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US . The duty of erecting the memorial was not confined to the priests or Levites. So now, it is not the clergy only who are to proclaim God's "noble acts." All, in their several spheres, are to make known the great things He has done, and to take part in the public commemorations of them. The Church does not consist of clergy only, but of clergy and laity. So, too, the duties of a public recognition of the goodness of God are as incumbent on the laity as on the clergy. The laity are to bear the stones on their shoulders, and to deposit them where the people rest for the night. It is not well when they leave these duties to women and children, or to those whose duty it is to bear the ark. The duties of worshipping God in the sanctuary on other days beside Sunday, of promoting religious works and religious societies, is often left to the clergy by those who have plenty of time, if they preferred to spend their leisure hours in work for the benefit of others rather than in regarding their own comfort.

Other points in the narrative are worthy of mention.

I. THE PEOPLE HASTED AND PASSED OVER . They hasted

II. THE ISRAELITES WENT OVER " PREPARED FOR WAR ." This was true, not only of the two and a half tribes, but of the other tribes also.

HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE

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