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SUBJECT :-Cities of Refuge.
“ And they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood."Joshua xx. 3.
“Who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." --Heb. vi. 18.
Inalysis of Homily the four Hundred and fonrth.
REVENGE is a corruption of that Divine instinct of justice which our Righteous Maker has implanted within us, as a reflection of Himself. As a corrupt principle, it is as old as the fall, as universal as man. The most ancient nations regarded revenge for bloodshed, not only as legitimate, but as incumbent. It was considered the duty of the nearest kingman to the murdered man to wreak vengeance upon the guilty head of him who dealt the murderous blow. This avenger was called the GOEL ;-one who demanded restitution of blood. He in those distant days, was bound by the law of society to shed the blood of him who had slain his kinsman. In some parts of Europe, even in these latter days, blood revenge is popular. It is calculated that about four hundred persons annually lose their lives in Sardinia by this principle of blood revenge. Some of the Italians never pass over an insult without retaliation, either on the offender, or his family.
Whilst Moses, the great Legislator of Israel, did not destroy this principle of revenge, or abrogate its customary development, he introduced a principle of mercy to regulate its operation. That principle was embodied in the establishment of the “Cities of Refuge." These Cities were founded for a twofold purpose; first, to afford effectual protection to the individual who had unintentionally and by accident destroyed a brother's life, and secondly, to procure for him who had done so deliberately, an opportunity for a calm and fair trial. To give the whole country the advantage of this institution, there were six in number—three on the west of the Jordan ;-Hebron in Judah, Shechem in Ephraim, and Kadish in Naphtali; and three on the east of the Jordan ;Bezen in Rueben, Ramoth in Gilead, and Golan in Mannasseh.
Whether these places of Refuge were intended as material representations of the spiritual protection which the Gospel provides for the sinner or not, is a question which discussion has not yet settled. One thing is clear, that they are admirably adapted as telling illustrations; and for this purpose I shall use them at present. It is indeed not unlikely, that Paul had this Jewish institution in view when he spoke of the “Refuge set before us."
Before I mark out those remarkably salient points of resemblance between the protection which these “Cities” provided for the man-slayer, and the protection which the Gospel provides for the sinner, it seems advisable, in order to guard against wrong impressions, to notice a few of those points in which there is no correspondence between them.
First: The one afforded only a temporary protection for the body. The City of Refuge did not shield against death itself, but only against death from the hand of an avenger. Death would still come to him in some form. It left even the body unprotected from death itself, and it offered no safety for the soul. The Gospel, on the contrary, is a protection for the whole man, and for the whole man for ever. “ He that believeth on me shall never die.” “I give unto my sheep eternal life, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands."
Secondly: The one afforded protection only to the unfortunate, the other to the guilty. The man who murdered in cold blood, and by purpose, could find no lasting protection here. If he reached the city before the blow of the avenger descended on his head, it was only to be brought forth to be executed by public justice. But the refuge of the Gospel is for the guilty. Man's kindness only extends to the unfortunate. Asylums for the unfortunate; chains, dungeons, scaffolds, for the guilty ;-this is man's policy. God's mercy extends to the guilty. “Let the wicked.” &c. and let us reason together.” Mannasseh fled to the Gospel
and was safe; so did David, so did Magdalene, so did Saul of Tarsus, &c.
Thirdly: The protection which the one afforded involved the sacrificing of certain privileges, that of the other insures every privilege. The man-slayer in the city, whilst he felt his body safe from the stroke of the avenger felt himself deprived of much ;-Liberty, Home, Society, &c. But the protection of the Gospel insures all good. “ All things are yours," &c.
Fourthly: Those who enjoyed the protection of the one would, desire to return to their former scenes, not so with those who enjoy the protection of the other. The man-slayer knew that he would be restored to his old scenes after the death of the High Priest. He therefore desired this event. The mother of the High Priest, knowing the strength of the desire to be liberated, and fearing that the prisoners would pray for the death of her son, treated them with special kindness. But he who enjoys the protection of the Gospel would not go back to the old scenes of life for the world.
6 What things were gain to me these I counted loss for Christ,” &c.
But let me notice some of the more illustrative features of resemblance :
OF DIVINE APPOINTMENT; SO IS THE PROTECTION OFFERED IN THE GOSPEL.
The cities of refuge were not the inventions of human philanthropy, they were the ordinations of Heaven. “The Lord spake unto Joshua, saying, speak to the children of Israel, saying, appoint out for your cities of refuge whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses.” (Joshua xx. 1–9; Exodus xxi. 13; Numbers xxxiii. 6-14; Deut. xix. 2-9.) The Gospel Refuge is of Divine appointment. “Behold I lay in Zion," &c. “Whom God hath set forth,” &c.
II. THE CITIES OF REFUGE WERE IMMINENT DANGER, SO
The man-slayer had violated a social law, the great law of Society. “With what measure yo mete it shall be measured to you again.” He had dealt out death to society, and society was pursuing him with death! The grim monster was at his heels, but he was safe the very moment he crossed the threshold of the city gates. The sinner is in danger. No imagination, no figure of language, can exaggerate the magnitude of the sinner's peril. Eternal justice pursues him ; thundering, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, written in the book of the law to do them;" “ The soul that sinneth it shall die.” But let him enter the Gospel Refuge and he is safe ; he can look out upon the wide-spread universe and exclaim, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" &c.
III. THE CITIES OF REFUGE WERE ARRANGED 80 AS TO
BE AVAILABLE FOR ALL THE MAN-SLAYERS IN THE COUNTRY ; SO IS THE GOSPEL PROVIDED FOR ALL SINNERS. (1) They had capacity enough to secure all. They were never so full as to turn any away.
The Gospel provision is sufficient for all. In John's day, eighteen centuries ago, "he saw a great multitude, which no man could number," &c. Since then, millions have been added, and yet there is room. (2) They lay within the reach of all. The map of ancient Palestine will show us how accessible those places are ;—they were easy of approach to all. How thoroughly the Gospel comes within
Say not in thine heart,” &c. The roads to them were kept good. The rivers were spanned with bridges and the rough places were made plain, so that there was no obstruction to the man who was fleeing for his life. (3) They were pointed out to all. Finger posts were planted along the road, with the word “Refuge— Refuge !” written on them. Every facility rendered. So in this gospel; the path is clear, and “Wisdom is crying in the streets,” &c.
ASYLUMS FOR SUCH CASES; SO IS THE GOSPEL THE ONLY WAY OF SALVATION. If the homicide halted or ran elsewhere, he was in danger ; no other city could protect him. We may suppose that some made the trial and would say to themselves, “ Why must I run there, why not here or somewhere else ?" and would make the trial and soon find out the fatal mistake. So with the Gospel :-Nothing else will do. Men, from a perversity of nature, may try something else-works-sacraments --philosophies—but all of no avail. “There is salvation in no no other."
V. THE CITIES OF REFUGE WERE ONLY SERVICEABLE TO THOSE WHO BY SUITABLE EFFORT REACHED THEM.
What was this effort which the man-slayer had to put forth ? (1) Individual effort. He had not to trust to others to carry
him there. He had to use his own limbs and powers. So with the sinner :-he cannot be saved by proxy. (2) Immediate effort. After he had struck the mortal blow, be had not a moment to lose. So with the sinner. “ Now is the accepted time." (3) Strenuous effort. Walking would not do; he had to run—to exert himself to the utmost. So with the sinner ---agonise to enter in. (4) Persevering effort. If he had stopped an inch before he reached the spot he would no thave been safe. He that endureth to the end shall be saved. “ Be thou faithful unto death.” Hasten, then, to the Gospel Refuge. Enter its sacred precincts, and you are secure; secure from the assaults of every enemy, from the force of every adverse circumstance, of every conceivable catastrophe ; secure amidst the agonies of death, the terrors of the judgment, and crashes of a dissolving universe. Enter this refuge, and whilst God's judgments are shaking the globe, you may chant the triumphant song of an old Hebrew saint.
“God is our refuge and strength,