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SERMON XVI.

PENTECOST.

Lessons for the day, Deuteronomy XVI. to ver. 18, and Isaiah XI.

Preached at Lincoln's Inn, on Whit Sunday, June 8, 1851.

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Deut. XXX. 19, 20.
I call heaven and earth to record this day

against you, that I have set before you life
and death, blessing and cursing : therefore
choose life, that both thou and thy seed may
live : that thou mayest love the Lord thy
God, and that thou mayest obey his voice,
and that thou mayest cleave unto him : for
he is thy life, and the length of thy days :
that thou mayest dwell in the land which
the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abra-
ham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

U will have felt, I think by this time, how

well the Book of Deuteronomy answers to its name. It is most strictly a Law book. It sets forth the Law under which the Israelites were living, and which they could not violate without losing their life as a nation. But it is not a book of Statutes. It does not contain a set of decrees which the chosen race were to observe, like those which are found in the latter part of Exodus. It rather explains the very meaning and principle of their social existence. It is what we might call in modern language, a constitutional treatise; an exhibition of the grounds upon which their polity rested. This is the second Law, or that which was implied in the terms and denunciations of the first.

In a former Sermon I noticed a very memorable difference between the form of the Fourth Commandment as it is delivered in the twentieth chapter of Exodus, and as it is repeated here. I considered that difference to be significant of the object which the later record keeps steadily in view. The Sabbath was to be kept not merely because God rested on the seventh day, but because the Israelites had been bondsmen in the land of Egypt. It commemorated a Redemption. That fact of a redemption lay, I said, beneath all the institutions which the chosen people were enjoined to preserve. Apart from the faith and acknowledgment of it, their institutions—one and all — became unreal, unintelligible. They could not observe them if they did not receive them as witnesses that they had been delivered from a tyrant and taken under God's immediate government. That truth was the foundation of their society. It would hold together so long as that truth was remembered. It would perish when that truth was lost. The book of Deuteronomy is nothing but a continuous assertion and illustration of this maxim; an application of it to the condition of the nation in all periods.

The lesson we read this morning supplies us a memorable instance. It has been chosen

to-day because it records the appointment of the Pentecost, or Feast of Weeks. Let me repeat to you the words in which that appointment is set forth: Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee. Begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God, with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee. And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place His Name there. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.'

The last words, “You were bondmen in the land of Egypt,' we should have supposed must be meant for the Passover, since that was instituted on the night of their liberation, and was to be a perpetual celebration of it. But no! This feast which was to begin when the sickle was put into the corn, this feast which was a thanksgiving for what we call the blessings of nature, was, just as much as the other, a feast of Redemption. They could not keep it except they had been made free; they could only keep it with any gladness when they received it as a token and pledge of their

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freedom. The poor idolater would seize the fruits of the earth, would feel that they had in some way dropped upon him; that if he did not perform certain services, they might another year refuse to come to him. The blessing of the Israelite was that he could understand all the regular and mysterious processes in the ground and in the mind of the husbandmen to be appointed by his invisible Lord and Friend. He could wait in faith their coming at the season which the gracious Ruler had fixed, could hail them when they appeared as blessings the more new and marvellous for their orderly recurrence, could look upon interruptions, failures, and disappointments, as warnings to remind him of God, or of his own neglects and transgressions. That was the spirit of one recollecting that he had been a bondman in the land of Egypt; that he had been under the rod of a tyrant who might decree one thing to-day and another to-morrow, who cared only for obtaining results, and nothing for the human creatures who were to produce them; that he had lived among men and had shared their ignominious delusion, who fancied that all their wealth came from the river or its inundations, or from some animal powers, and that these must be flattered or appeased; that he had looked upon the earth as a hard and partial mother, pouring her dainties into the lap of some of her children, refusing a bare subsistence to the great multitude of them. And now it was his privilege to feel and know that he was not at the mercy of the earth, or of à man, that He who had brought him out of slavery was the life-giver, the giver of strength and wisdom to man; then the giver of the fruits which rewarded the use of his powers. He was to regard the earth and those fruits as blessings to the manser vant and the maidservant, to the widow and the fatherless. They were to take part in the great festival; for they were sharers in the meaning of it, in the good will of Him who was praised in it.

I have not chosen this passage for my text today, but one from a chapter which the Church reads on Whit Tuesday, because I think it embodies the spirit of the whole book, and throws great light upon the Jewish and Christian Pentecost. It is a recapitulation of principles which I have dwelt upon already; but one clause of it brings out a topic most needful for the illustration of the Pentateuch upon which I have not yet found opportunity to speak. I do not dread the charge of repetition, and I should consider the omission of that subject a very culpable one.

When I say that the book of Deuteronomy is a book of laws and maxims, I am using language which, though true, is not satisfactory. Do not let such phrases cause you to forget that a living man is speaking in it. We do not miss what some would call the dramatic interest of it; we miss its inmost sense and intention if we lose sight of the old man standing before a mixed multitude of people, whose fathers he saw carrying burdens in Egypt, and whom he had been leading

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