1 Samuel Chapter Five
1 Samuel 5
Dagon is broken before the ark. (1-5) The Philistine smitten. (6-12)
Commentary on 1 Samuel 5:1-5
(Read 1 Samuel 5:1-5)
See the ark's triumph over Dagon. Thus the kingdom of Satan will certainly fall before the kingdom of Christ, error before truth, profaneness before godliness, and corruption before grace in the hearts of the faithful. When the interests of religion seem to be ready to sink, even then we may be confident that the day of their triumph will come. When Christ, the true Ark of the covenant, really enters the heart of fallen man, which is indeed Satan's temple, all idols will fall, every endeavour to set them up again will be vain, sin will be forsaken, and unrighteous gain restored; the Lord will claim and possess the throne. But pride, self-love, and worldly lusts, though dethroned and crucified, still remain within us, like the stump of Dagon. Let us watch and pray that they may not prevail. Let us seek to have them more entirely destroyed.
Commentary on 1 Samuel 5:6-12
(Read 1 Samuel 5:6-12)
The hand of the Lord was heavy upon the Philistines; he not only convinced them of their folly, but severely chastised their insolence. Yet they would not renounce Dagon; and instead of seeking God's mercy, they desired to get clear of his ark. Carnal hearts, when they smart under the judgments of God, would rather, if it were possible, put him far from them, than enter into covenant or communion with him, and seek him for their friend. But their devices to escape the Divine judgments only increase them. Those that fight against God will soon have enough of it.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on 1 Samuel》
1 Samuel 5
 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.
By Dagon — By way of reproach, as a spoil and trophy set there to the honour of Dagon, to whom doubtless they ascribed this victory.
 And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again.
They — The priests of Dagon.
Set him — Supposing his fall was casual.
 And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.
Cut off — The head is the seat of wisdom; the hands the instruments of action: both are cut off to shew that he had neither wisdom nor strength to defend himself or his worshippers. Thus the priests by concealing Dagon's shame before, make it more evident and infamous.
The stump — Heb. only dagon, that is, that part of it from which it was called Dagon, namely the fishy part, for Dag in Hebrew signifies a fish.
It — Upon the threshold; there the trunk abode in the place where it fell, but the head and hands were slung to distant places.
 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day.
This day — When this history was written, which if written by Samuel towards the end of his life, was a sufficient ground for this expression.
 But the hand of the LORD was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof.
Emerods — The piles.
 They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither.
To Gath — Supposing that this plague was confined to Ashdod for some particular reasons, or that it came upon them by chance, or for putting it into Dagon's temple, which they resolved they would not do.
 And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts.
Hidden parts — In the inwards of their hinder parts: which is the worst kind of emerods, as all physicians acknowledge, both because its pains are far more sharp than the other; and because the malady is more out of the reach of remedies.
 So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place, that it slay us not, and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there.
The city — In every city, where the ark of God came.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on 1 Samuel》
05 Chapter 5
And the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod.
The hypocritical smitten before the real
The word Philistine signifies strangers or emigrants; their descent is obscure, but good reasons are assigned for considering them of Semitic extraction. Ashdod was one of the five Philistine Satrapies being an inland town, 34 miles north of Gaza, now called Eshud. “And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it into the house of Dagon” (1 Samuel 5:2). They knew the power of Israel’s God; did they by this conduct hope to effect a compromise, or were they offering this holy spoil as a tribute of homage to their national Deity?
I. The hypocritical smitten before the real. This world is one vast temple, filled with the unreal and untrue.
1. The Dagon of false religious systems. Superstition has enthroned its idol, ignorance its contradictions, Buddhism its sanguinary rites, Confucianism its standard of ethics, and the honest heathen his fancies of terror. There are the impositions of Mahomet, the falsehoods of his history, and the deceptions of his creed.
2. The Dagon of doctrinal heresy.
3. There is the Dagon of mercantile life. The externalisms of trade are imposing and attractive, but how unworthy its motive--how frequently are its gains the result of cunning deception, fraudulent imposition, or mischievous adulterations, and these criminal extortions are justified by the severity of competition, or the ungenerous demands and arbitrary fancies of the purchasing community. Before the ark of Godly principle and honest courtesy, these “tricks of trade” must suffer an ignominious defeat.
4. There are the Dagons of personal religious life. Devotion is formal; religious work mechanical; they are but pictures of the true. The piety of others consists in a spasmodic performance of the holy, in feelings of emotion, fitful and uncertain, incited more by circumstances than by steady faith.
5. The Dagon of political life. Injustice has formed the basis of law, the enforcement of which has issued in oppression and misery. How often have our social interests been blighted by the pandering politics of chuckling statesmen! Christian truth has been refused its required homage; human sagacity has been worshipped in its stead. But one day, when the ark shall be brought into the temple, this state of things will be terminated. Instead, we shall find monarchs laying their crowns at the feet of Jesus; ruling only in accordance with the principle of His life, and living in harmony with the precepts of His Word. Then shall human legislation be the expression of Divine sentiment, and the senate become a synonym for the sanctuary.
6. It had successive opportunity of recovering its defeat. “And they took Dagon and set him in his place again.” For how many chapters of history would this be an appropriate heading? Should it not be written under the record of Smithfield’s martyrdom? and what more fitting inscription could be found for the door of the Inquisition Room? But today, upon the floor of Europe’s Temple we find its shattered wreck. Its defeat was
In this superstitious folly they perpetuated the memory of their own disgrace! In this picture we have an outline of the world’s future history, when all in antagonism to the Divine nature shall be destroyed beyond the power of restoration.
II. The unholy desiring the departure of the seal. “The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us” (1 Samuel 5:7). This is the cry of all unhallowed life.
1. A Divine Affliction. The sinful is sure to be afflicted by contact with the true. A diseased eye cannot open itself to the light without pain; neither can a corrupt nature behold spotless purity, unsullied truth, without being stricken by its brightness. Simon Peter cried out, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” and in so doing articulated the deepest feeling of degenerate life. In order to happy association with the ark, man’s receptive faculties must be touched by the Divine finger; then, with adjusted relations and restored harmony, the holy will be appreciated, exemption from affliction will be secured, and its permanent residence desired.
2. A Supreme Council. They sent, therefore, and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them (1 Samuel 5:8). The people are in a fearful extremity; and, driven almost to desperation by the fierceness of their sufferings, are ready to execute any scheme likely to ensure relief. But it was a council without a God.
3. An unavailing decree. “Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath” (1 Samuel 5:8). “How many, when in sorrow, acting upon their own impulses, extend their affliction to others” (1 Samuel 5:9).
III. The unholy seeking advice as to the disposition of the real.
1. Inquiry started. “What shall we do to the ark of the Lord?” (1 Samuel 6:2).
2. Anxiety displayed. “Tell us wherewith we shall send it to His place” (1 Samuel 6:2).
3. A solution suggested. “But in any wise return Him a trespass offering” (1 Samuel 6:3-9).
IV. The real inquisitively investigated. “And He smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they looked into the ark of the Lord” (1 Samuel 6:19).
1. Presumption punished. “He smote of the people fifty thousand and three score and ten men” (1 Samuel 6:19).
2. Reverence inspired. “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” (1 Samuel 6:19). In the next chapter we have the real penitentially sought and joyfully obtained. Lessons:--
The ark in the house of Dagon
I. I observe it is here suggested that things which are good for some people to have may be quite the opposite for others.
When the Philistines knew that the ark had been brought into the camp of Israel they were afraid, and said, “God is come into the camp.” And no doubt they imagined that in it they had captured a great prize. But the ark of God did not do for the Philistines what it had done for the Israelites. On the contrary, it brought to them only disaster, disease, and destruction. The ark had been a blessing to the Israelites, it was a curse to the Philistines. Now is it not the case that what was true of the ark is also true of many things among us? For example, there is wealth. What a blessing it has been to one generation, but what a curse sometimes to the next! To the father it has been a great comfort, to his thriftless, indolent son, ruination of both body and soul. Not infrequently do we find people regarding money very much in the same light as the Philistines regarded the ark. With not a few money means omnipotence! They will sacrifice health, probity--anything, to get money. And when they have got it: what then? Is it any enjoyment to them? Does it bring comfort? Does it make them happy? No; not in a single instance, where it has been come by in an unjust or unhealthy way. God gave the Israelites the ark, at any rate He put it into their hearts to make it, and it was to them a great blessing; so if God gives a man wealth, or if He puts him into the way of making it, his fortune may be a great blessing to him. But if money does not come in this way, depend upon it we are better without it. And what is true in relation to wealth is equally true with regard to everything else which we do not possess, but which we may covet. Are you inclined sometimes to covet another man’s position, and murmur because your lot is so hard and difficult? Let me, then, ask if you have reason to think that your lot is from the Lord? If to this question your only answer is “Yes,” then be assured that hard and difficult though it may be, for you it is the best, and if you had your wish, were you somehow to slip into the position you covet, you might not find it “the bed of roses” you expected, and a very short experience in it might make you long very eagerly for the old life. What is more delightful on a wintry day than to walk through a greenhouse, where the plants and flowers luxuriate, as in the warm sunshine of summer? But the greenhouse is suited only for certain plants. There are plants to whom its atmosphere would be death, that need the storm as well as the sunshine, cold as well as heat, frost as well as dew, the wild blest of winter as well as the warm breezes of summer. So if God has not put you in His greenhouse, nor in some shady, sheltered corner of His great garden, but in some spot where you stand exposed to every wind that blows, to the tempest, the biting cold, in a word, to all nature’s ruder elements, do not fret or be discouraged. God’s purpose is to make you a strong and noble character, and to do this the stern discipline of your life is doubtless needed. So be content with what you have, and with where you are, remembering that if you had your neighbour’s things you might, in their possession, be as miserable as the Philistines were all the time the ark was in their country.
II. The narrative before us suggests that God is a jealous God.--The Philistines put the ark of the Lord in “the house of Dagon, and set it by the side of Dagon.” But when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was on his face again before the ark, and his head and both the palms of his hands were cut off, and lying upon the threshold, and “only the stump of Dagon,” the fish part, “was left to him.” if there had been a “Dominie Sampson” among those priests, he certainly would have cried out, Prodigious! And it was prodigious in the truest sense, for it was a foreshadowing of God’s great law, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” God’s ark must not be placed side by side with Dagon. Now we Christians, those of us, thank God, who are living in the light of His countenance as well as those who “see men only, as trees walking,” have need to take care, lest we also provoke the jealousy of God. We must never place Him or His sacred things on the same level, and side by side, with our own things--Our business, or our family, or any of our earthly belongings. He only is God, and we must place Him above, infinitely above all else. All along the lines of human life the tendency has been in the direction of idolatry. The ancient people of God fell into it, as we know, again and again, and they suffered in consequence. And though “the form changeth,” the thing, the evil still liveth. It is right to make the home as snug and comfortable and pleasant as you can, and to take a pride in doing so. But does the home claim as much attention as God, and the things of God claim? Nay, does it claim more? Is it true that your home fills your heart, and that consequently God is shut out of it? Or is it true that it occupies quite as much of its room as God does? Is it in any sense and measure an idol? Then listen to me whilst I tell you what will some day happen. That home will one day fail to delight you. You will see no beauty in the pictures which adorn its walls. You will be unable to find comfort or rest in any part of it. Yes--your home, if you make it your idol, will come to present itself to you in quite as pitiable a light as that in which the Philistines beheld their god. And what about the children? “I am fond of children,” said Thomas Binney. “I think them the poetry of the world--the fresh flowers of our hearts and homes.” It is well spoken. But how many a sad tale may be told touching the children, for how many of these “fresh flowers” have drooped and died? Yes, and how many parents have had to confess, as they have gazed upon the face of a child cold in death, “Alas, alas, I loved him too well, and the God who gave him, and who has taken him back, too little?” Over all human affections we must build our temple, and in it, we must have only one altar, and only one God--the Lord God of Israel--for remember He is a jealous God. He loves us so much that He can bear no rival.
III. This narrative suggests that affliction may not lead to repentance and conversion. Apparently the first effect of God’s judgments upon them was the same as in the case of Pharaoh, for their priests and diviners charged them, saying, “Wherefore do ye harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts?” Now people often speak as if affliction had a softening tendency; producing, or at any rate, leading up to true repentance, and thorough conversion to God. But this idea has little, if any, good foundation to rest upon. I believe the tendency on the whole to be the opposite. Where there is no grace--where no thought or feeling of the grace of God is entertained in the heart--the tendency of affliction is to sour and harden. There may be exceptions to this rule, but I believe they are few. And this must be said, that afflictions, by themselves, never brought any soul into a state of true repentance. It is not judgment that wins the alien to God, but mercy. David said, “It was good for me that I hays been afflicted,” but then David was a child, sad a good child of God. I say all this with a definite, practical object in view, viz., to stir us up to increased zeal in our teachings and preachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s judgments upon Pharaoh did not lead him to repentance; His judgments upon the Philistines did not lead them to repentance; but when Peter and Paul preached the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, the unbelieving Gentile, as well as the unbelieving Jew, was pricked in his heart, and in how many instances savingly converted to God? (Adam Scott.)
Dagon’s ups and downs
When the civil power was joined with the spiritual, and the arm of flesh came in to patronise and to take into connection with itself the arm of God’s strength, then it was that the ark was borne away in triumph by its foes. Another lesson may be learned from the incident before us. When the Philistines had beaten the Israelites in battle, and captured the sacred chest called the ark, they boasted and gloried as though they had defeated God Himself. This touched at once the honour of Jehovah, and because He is a jealous God this boded good for Israel. The fact that God is a jealous God has often a terrible side to us, for it leads to our chastisement when we grieve Him; this, indeed, led to the defeat of Israel. But it has also a bright side towards us, for His jealousy flames against His foes even more terribly than against His friends. Now, then, whenever at any time infidelity or superstition shall so prevail as to discourage your minds, take you comfort out of this--that in all these God’s honour is compromised. Have they blasphemed His name? Then He will protect that name. Where the living God comes into the soul, Dagon, or the idol god of sin and worldliness, must go down.
I. The coming back of the ark into Dagon’s temple was an apt simile of the coming of Christ into the soul. Dagon, according to the best information, warn the fish god of Philistia; perhaps borrowed from the Sidonians and men of Tyre, whose main business was upon the sea, and who therefore invented a marina deity. The upper part of Dagon was a man or woman, and the lower part of the idol was carved like a fish. We get a very good idea of it from the common notion of the fictitious, fabulous creature called a mermaid. Dagon was just a merman or mermaid; only, of course, there was no pretence of his being alive. He was a carved image. The temple at Ashdod was, perhaps, the cathedral of Dagon, the chief shrine of his worship; and there he sat erect upon the high altar with pompous surroundings. The ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts was a small wooden box overlaid with gold, by no means a very cumbersome or bulky matter, but nevertheless very sacred, because it had a representative character, and symbolised the covenant of God.
1. We have now Dagon and the ark in the same temple, sin and grace in the same heart, but this state of things cannot long abide. No man can serve two masters, and even if he could then two masters would not agree to be so served. The two great principles of sin and grace will not abide in peace with each other, they are as opposite as fire and water.
2. Very likely your Dagon is in the shape of self-righteousness. I shall call it Dagon, for it is nothing better: one of the worst idols in the whole world is the idol of self. The self-righteous man boasts that he is as good as other people, if not rather better, although he is not a Christian.
3. Perhaps the man never had much of this vainglorious self-righteousness, but he served the Dagon of besetting and beloved sin.
4. Now the parallel may be run a little further: This fall of Dagon very soon began to be perceived.
5. Now, what happened on the night mentioned in the text? Dagon fell before the ark when it was all quiet and still in the temple. Thought is the channel of immense benefit to the soul. Shut the temple doors and let all be still, and then will the Holy Ghost work wonders in the soul.
II. The setting up of Dagon the second time, and his second fall, very well represent the battle going on in the soul between sin and grace.
1. Even thus Satan and the flesh come into our souls and try be set our fallen Dagon up again with soma measure of success. It often happens that in young converts there comes a period when it looks as if they had altogether apostatized and gone back to their former ways. It seems as if the work of God were not real in their souls, and grace was not triumphant. Do you wonder at it? I have ceased to wonder. The gospel is preached, and the man accepts it, and there is a marvellous difference in him; but when he goes among his old companions, although he is resolved not to fall into his former sins, they try him very severely. He is assailed in a thousand ways! I have known a man when he has been tempted to go into evil company refuse again, and again, and again. His tempters have laughed at him, and he has borne it all, but at last be has lost his temper; and as soon as the enemies have seen his passion boiling up they have cried out, “Ah, there you are! We have got you.” At such a time as that the poor man is apt to cry, “Alas, I cannot be a believer, or else I should not have done this.” Now, all this is a violent attempt of Satan and the flesh to set Dagon up again. Sometimes they do for a time set Dagon up again and cause great sorrow in the soul. The wandarers have come back, weeping and sighing, to own that they have dishonoured their profession: and what has been the result in the long run? Why, they bare had more humility, more tenderness of heart, more love to Christ, more gratitude, than they had before.
2. Now, notice that although they again set Dagon up, he had to go down again with a worse fall. The idol’s head was gone, and even so the reigning power of sin is utterly broken and destroyed, its beauty, its cunning, its glory are all dashed to atoms. This is the result of the grace of God, and the sure result of it, if it comes into the soul, however long the conflict may continue, and however desperate the efforts of Satan to regain his empire. O, believer, sin may trouble thee, but it shall not tyrannize over thee. Then, too, the hands of Dagon were broken off, and even thus the active power, the working power of sin is taken away. Both the palms of the idol’s hands were cut off upon the threshold, so that he had not a hand left. Neither right-handed sin nor left-handed sin shall remain in the believer when God’s sanctifying grace fetches Dagon down.
3. This happened, too, if you notice, very speedily; for we are told a second time that, when they arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face.
III. Though the fish god was thus maimed and broken, yet the stump of Dagon was left to him. The original Hebrew is, “Only Dagon was left to him,” or “only the fish”: only the fishy part remained. The head and the upper portions were broken away, there remained only the fishy tail of Dagon, and that was all: but that was not broken.
1. Now, this is the business which brings us so much sorrow--that the stump of Dagon is left to him. There is the old corruption within us, and there is no use denying it, because denying it will put us off our guard, will make many of the puzzles of life to be quite unanswerable, and often bring upon us great confusion of soul. The other law is within us as well as the law of grace.
2. The stump of Dagon is still left; and because it is left, dear friends, it is a thing to be watched against, for though that stony stump of Dagon would not grow in the Philistine temple, yet they would make a new image, and exalt it again, and bow before it as before. Alas, the stump of sin within us is not a slab of stone, but full of vitality, like the tree cut down, of which Job said, “At the scent of water it will bud.” Leave the sin that is in you to itself, and let temptation come in the way, and you shall see that which will blind your eyes with weeping.
IV. That though the stump of Dagon was not taken out of the Philistine temple we may go beyond the history and rejoice that it will be taken from our hearts. The day is coming, brother, sister, in which there will be no more inclination in you to sin than there is in an angel. John Bunyan represents Mercy as laughing in her sleep. She had a dream, she said; and she laughed because of the great favours which were yet to be bestowed upon her. Well, ii some of you were to dream tonight that the great thing which I have spoken of had actually happened to you, so that you were completely free from all tendency to sin, would not you also be as them that dream and laugh for very joy. Think of it--no more cause lot watchfulness, no more need of weeping over the day’s sin before you fall asleep at night; no more sin to confess, no devil to tempt you, no worldly care, no lusting, no envy, no depression of spirit, no unbelief, nothing of the kind--will not this be a very large part of the joy of heaven? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The fall of Dagon
The text reminds us of four things.
I. The inevitable doom of wrong. Wrong in markets, in governments, churches, in all institutions, and in all lives must fall.
II. The destined depravation of sinners. Dagon was the object in which the men of Ashdod centred the deepest sympathies of their soul--their god. No loss to a man is equal to the loss of his god, the object he loves most; and every sinner must experience this loss one day. Whatever he loves and prizes most must go from him.
III. The silent working of God. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
They took Dagon, and set him in his place again.--
The repair of broken ideals
Because you have broken your purpose do not allow it to go unmended. Even the heathen with so base a conception of divinity as Dagon was, when Dagon fell to the ground, lifted him up again and put him in his place. When, not your idol, but your bright ideal, falls to the ground, though its head and its feet be broken, lift it up and put in its place again. Because you have broken faith and fealty to that which you meant to be, and meant to do, it is no reason why you should not swear again, and again go forward. Let your ideal stand high and bright and pure, though by it every one of you is condemned, and cast down, as it were, to the very bottom of condemnation. Save that. Even though a man forsake his purpose, though he is recreant to his ideal, though he through months and years goes knowingly wrong, let not his star set. Do not let your ideal go down. (H. W. Beecher.)
The head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off.--
The helplessness of idols
The philosopher Heine, in one of his letters written from Paris, says: “Only with pain could I drag myself to the Louvre, and I was nearly exhausted when I entered the lofty hall where the blessed goddess of beauty, our dear lady of Mile, stands on her pedestal. At her feet I lay a long time, and I wept so passionately that a stone must have had compassion on me. Therefore the goddess looked down pityingly upon me, yet at the same time inconsolably as though she would say: ‘See you not that I have no arms, and that, therefore, I can give you no help?’”
What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel.
The ark of God
It often happens that when a person has at last obtained that which he most desired he does not know what to do with it. This may be said of money after a life of economy and strict attention to business; of repose after a life of toil; and of many other aims and objects in life. Now in the passage quoted you find the Philistines in a similar difficulty: they had obtained possession of that which they considered the greatest prize of warfare. It was a mighty spoil; it caused no little joy to the Philistines; but his loss was a terrible and crushing blow to Israel. The ark had changed hands. The Philistines had now in their custody the Ark of God. It was a sore trouble to them. That material construction is now long ago broken up and destroyed: the wood and gold have perished; but the Divine Presence still lives on. The Church preserves her identity under all adverse circumstances: the Ark remained the same sacred witness to God’s Truth wherever carried. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16.) It is wonderful to notice how God’s Spirit forces this fact upon the world. The world is compelled to recognise the presence of religion, however it may recoil from the claims of religion. The history of the world ever since the Christian era commenced is a proof of this: what would become of any record of the first three centuries which failed to take account of the religious element? The history of the Roman Empire at that time is, in fact, the history of the Church. History tells you how Christianity springing up in the Roman provinces perplexed the authorities; how at last it spread; how outbreaks of persecution only tended to strengthen and deepen its roots; but yet all proves how the world had begun to ask this question as to the religion of the day: “What shall we do with the Ark of God?” Then, again: how much more attentively the action of the Church is now watched by the public, than used to be the case formerly. Whatever it be which relates to religion, there is the same watchfulness from without. Again and again the world enquires, at moments the most trivial, at social parties, at merry meetings, just for the sake of saying something, or to start a subject, “What shall we do with the Ark of God?” And see only how religion is employed to puff literature. Some periodical or magazine is started: it will not sell unless there be an element of religion in it. It is only one other instance of the editor eyeing religion, considering what he can get out of the religious element which will find him readers: he only says, “What shall we do with the Ark of God?” And further. Consider the prejudices of the present day. Mark the obvious success of attempts which at first were regarded cynically or coldly. The world has been convinced that Church principles cannot easily be laughed out of court, and that conscientious convictions are worthy of respect; that blameless lives conduce to the welfare of society. So gradually the world tempers its opposition; it wishes to moderate religious enthusiasm; it desires to reduce the Church to its own level; it would like to enjoy all successes which the Church achieves in fashioning well-ordered citizens; but at the same time the world would tie down the action of the Church to the limits of the popular will. “What shall we do to these men? For that a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all those that dwell in Jerusalem.” “What shall we do with the Ark of God?” But with regard to your own relation to holy things; does not this perplexity of the Philistines find an answer in your own hearts? You have lived many years with the light of truth burning brightly before you, God has cast your lot in a Christian land, not in a land of idols. God has blessed you with a religious home, with serious parents. How have you regarded holy things? Have not you sometimes felt them irksome? as if you did not quite know what to do with religion; as if the things of God stood in your way; as if they shackled you; as if they dwarfed the development of your life, and paralysed somewhat the hopes of your career? And yet you did not like to send the Ark away; you would not give up religion; you recognised its value too highly; you were afraid to east off God and to disown Him; yet a secret wish sprang up that you had never known so much of truth; you almost deemed the heathen happy, because you fancied that he could have no embarrassing scruples. “What were you to do with the Ark of God!” It so often came across your path; every now and then disputing the way; telling you that you must not do this or that. At such moments did not religion seem unwelcome? somewhat as an intruder? For thus it is that religious scruples do harass men when they least like it. God’s mercy sends the Angel to bar the way: and such is God’s love, the Angel moves further and further into narrow places, where there is no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left; narrow places where the choice more directly confronts the sinner; where he may see more evidently the blackness of sin in contrast with the pure white light of holiness. There is nothing more contemptible, or more miserable, than shifting about between two opinions. The Philistines were never more wretched than when they were employed in passing on the Ark from one city to another. Shame and disease marked that period of seven months’ indecision. It was far better when they sent the Ark back to its rightful owners. At least it was a decided step; there was no halting between two opinions if you want to insult God, then, use religion as a tool for your own convenience and not as a principle of life. The sin of the world has lain chiefly in this prostitution of religion. It has proved the curse and downfall of nations; the deterioration and ruin of man. Heathen ignorance is better than Christian indifference; depend upon it, nothing is so prolific of infidelity as indecision. Balaam tampering with the commands of God; Ahab sending for, but not obeying, Micaiah; Herod hearing John gladly, but persisting in his adultery; Judas following Jesus, but selling Him for silver; Demas beginning well, but falling away to self-indulgence; these are the emissaries which the devil employs to deceive mankind. Rather learn by God’s grace to regard religion and truth’s claims not as a moral intrusion, but as affording a principle on which to rule your life. Religion is not a subject to be handled at our will; it is not just now and then to serve our turn, and then to be laid aside for some possible future use; but it is a principle to enter into all our ways. (C. A. Raymond, M. A.)
The cry of the city.
The cry of the city
There is a hum of the city in its ceaseless activity, a shout in its occasional excitement, a song in its periodic mirth, but a cry in its constant want, distress, pain. Paul heard it at Athens and his “heart was stirred”; Jesus at Jerusalem and “He wept.” Do we not hear it in every city, and is not the cry somewhat thus?
I am sensitive and might be touched with truth and love.
II.--I am restless and so always seeking some unattained good.
III.--I am strong and might be powerful for God and humanity.
IV.--I am sinful and must have religion or ruin. Does anyone fail to hear these cries, let him listen to “The Bitter Cry of Outcast London,” or gaze sadly at “Horrible London,” or pendent “The Politics of the very Poor.” (Homilist.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》