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Joshua 19:1-51 -

The completion of the work.

The reflections suggested by this chapter are identical with those which have already occurred to us. They are, perhaps, emphasised by Joshua 19:51 , in which the solemn public division of the land is once more, and yet more plainly, declared to have taken place with the assent of the heads of Church and State, and to have been attended with a religious ceremony. Without pretending to say whose fault it is, or how such a desirable state of things may be once more attained, we may be allowed to lament that what was the rule with our forefathers before the Norman conquest is impossible now. No doubt the separation of ecclesiastical from civil jurisdiction which the Conqueror effected has been to a great extent the cause of this, as that measure was also the cause of an assumption of authority by ecclesiastics which was afterwards found to be intolerable. There should be no separation between the religious and civil interests of the community. Every man in the kingdom is, or ought to be, interested in its ecclesiastical arrangements. No single act of the State ought to be considered as outside the sphere of religious influence. At the same time we must remember that the present state of things is the natural result of religious freedom, a freedom which Christ Himself proclaimed ( John 18:36 ), but which was unknown to His Church for many centuries, as also to the Jews before He came ( Genesis 17:14 ; Exodus 12:15 ; Exodus 30:1-38 :83, 38; Exodus 31:14 ; Le Exodus 7:20 , 27, etc). As has been already intimated, an example which cannot be fulfilled in the letter may be fulfilled in the spirit. We may strive to hallow great national events with one heart and soul, though with different forms, waiting for the day when "our unhappy divisions" have ceased. We may, however, add one consideration derived from this chapter alone.


The rule of the world is

Observe how completely the narrative of this chapter implicitly rebukes a view of things which is assumed as a matter of course in the ordinary concerns of the world. In past history we read of the greed of individuals and nations for the annexation of territory, and of the wars and bloodshed thus caused. It has been a maxim that any ruler or any nation may, and ought to, add to its territories if it can, without much regard to the principles of justice or the general good. A man, it is still believed, may heap to himself possessions in land or money as much as he chooses, and would be a fool if he did not. The first of these doctrines has only lately begun to be questioned among us. The second is still an established principle of action. Yet Judah voluntarily surrendered its territory to Simeon for the national welfare. And Joshua takes care that every one is served before himself. It is this marvellous self abnegation on the part of the leader of a military expedition, unparalleled until Christianity came into the world, that is the best proof of the claim of the Mosaic dispensation to have been Divine. Cases like those of Cincinnatus cannot be adduced in refutation of this argument. His position is in no way parallel to that of the leader of an expedition like Joshua's. Such utter self abandonment as was displayed by Moses and Joshua marks them out as men fifteen or twenty—we might perhaps say thirty—centuries before their age. The invasion of Canaan has been declaimed against as cruel; but its cruelty was at least the fruit of a moral idea, a righteous indignation against an obscene and ferocious religion, which was itself the cause of infinite misery to mankind; while Joshua's cruelty was kindness itself compared to the revolting atrocities recorded at their own instance by the Eastern conquerors of old, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Moabite. We hear ad nauseam of the impossibility of God's ordering the slaughter of the unoffending Canaanites (see this subject further discussed in the Introduction). We hear nothing of the high morality, the sublime disinterestedness, the devotion to a grand and sublime ideal which characterised the giver of the Law and the conqueror of Canaan. Such characters have been rare since Christ came into the world. Save the two great men whom we have just known, they were unknown before it.


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