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a Chaldæa, on the Upper Euphrates, is now wholly improbable, although scholars formerly placed Ur Casdim in this region of country. The inscriptions sufficiently disprove this hypothesis, however, and it has been abandoned by most scholars. But we do not propose to discuss these points at present. We shall hope to see Mr. Bliss' paper in print, as it doubtless contains much of interest and value, well meriting consideration.
The Comman.lments of God.
An arbitrary command is an offence. As a command to the child in the home, the pupil in the school, the servant, the sailor, the soldier, or whatever subordinate, seems to issue from the mere will, to be sustained simply by the power to punish disobedience, it is received as an assault, arouses a spirit of resistance, and if obeyed at all, it is sullenly, or at least with a sense of injury. And the higher the soul's rise in the scale of intelligence and integrity the greater this sense of injury the profounder the feeling that it is entitled to something better than an arbitrary order. And the greater the power to afflict for disobedience, the greater the offence. Such a command from the weak might amuse, but from the mighty it must exasperate.
So if any suppose God to be commanding them simply in the name of His sovereignty and might, whatever their outward conformity, they must be in spiritual rebellion against Him, and by them God is, so far, defeated. And desiring the conformity of man's heart and will to His, by obedience to such commands He can never be gratified. Wanting the supreme love of man, and to be owned and reverenced as his perfect Heavenly Father, He must withhold all such commands and resort to other means. And whoever, in His name, reminds of his majesty and might simply makes the matter
worse. If worthy the throne of the universe He should know better than that how to govern, have a higher quality of power than that to display. But the conviction that a command is simply an assertion of a requirement inhering in the relation of things, and especially the things concerning which the commandment comes that its natural and inevitable relation to the desired result is as that of cause to effect divests it of all offence, endows it with attraction. So parental commands come to the child by the conviction of the parent's absolute love, superior wisdom, and obligation to govern it; that, in view of all the conditions, it is suitable for the parent to command and the child to obey. So the commands of the teacher come to the pupil having similar convictions, and to the sailor, soldier, or whatever subordinate, who sees that the commands inhere in the nature of the conditions involved, and that the success of the system, or the service it requires depends upon obedience. Then he sees that to complain of the command is to complain of the system, that to resent the requirement is to condemn that nature of things whence it has come.
So the scriptural writers seem to have contemplated the commandments of God. They are presented as something "not grievous"; in a great variety of phraseology, as delightful; as something, obedience to which will secure all forms of welfare, and discharge all forms of obligation, implying that in every department of life, and in every pursuit and path one must encounter the commandments of God; that their statement in whatever place, period or language, whether by tongue, pen, or type, has been but a report of what God had deeply graven in the order of nature; whether in its lower or higher forms. And what their references to the commandments imply we can hardly fail to perceive. In our need of physical, intellectual, social, æsthetic, affectional, moral and religious supplies there inheres a commandment of God to obtain these supplies; and by every faculty and power this command is repeated and emphasized. In the resources of every sense and limb, and of the soul, God has plainly written the command to use them. And in the nature of body and soul and
of the world of supply God has commanded concerning all the details. By elements and appetites of the body He tells us what to eat. By sensibility to heat and cold, and by exposure, He tells us what to wear. By spiritual appetite, taste, exposure, and by perception and reason, He tells us how spiritually to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves. Then in the nature of seeds, soils, air, sunshine, showers, and their products, and in mechanical principles He points the way to these supplies, and commands us to pursue it. And when crops fail from false culture it is because the commands of God have been broken. In the nature of woods, minerals and metals He commands concerning their use. He who mistakes in the selection of materials, or in working them, violates the commandments of God. When buildings fall or bridges break, it is from breaking God's commands. When the builder, for strength and stability, substitutes softness, weakness, swiftness of construction, he builds against God's clear commandment, and the result is no marvel no "mysterious dispensation."
And equally so is it of him who spiritually builds. Satisfied with facile fancies, transient conceits, rapid results, rather than with firm facts, eternal truth, patiently found, wrought and erected into character or system, God's commandments are against him, his structure goes down. God commands how to mix and burn the clay into bricks; split, hew, and smooth the stone, melt, mould or hammer the iron, saw, plane, fashion and fit the wood. He who hews or planes against the grain is wielding his axe or pushing his plane against a clear command of God. Seeing this, it were better to turn the board, timber, or himself about, for God will be obeyed. So if trying to smooth the way of thought, love, life, against the inherent grain of spiritual things. Being unable to reverse the established order, and assuming it to be right, we would better reverse ourselves, and approach from an opposite point. In other words, considering that we are going against the commandments of God, it would be wise to repent.
In the buoyancy of the sea, God commands to navigate; and in magnetic attraction, sun, stars, currents of the air and
of the ocean, and the appropriate principles of mechanics and philosophy, He shows how, revealing a command in each. Blind to these commandments men were long destitute of the immeasurable blessings bestowed by navigation. Breaking these commandments, wrecks result. So that "great and wide sea" of spiritual life we now sail may have waited long for anything worthy the name navigation, and on it, from disregarding the commandments of God, we are sure there are many wrecks.
From all which we hear the suggestion to contemplate every form and phase of life listening for the commandment of God concerning them, or closely scanning their pages to see what God has written there.
But it may be said, in this view, the commandments are too many and various for any one to hope to hear or find them all. But this is but another form of saying that life is too large and various for any one to hope to profitably experience it all. It is true that no one can be familiar with every science, art, profession, business; but the fact remains that so far as one goes in either, he must go with or against the commandments of God. And equally the fact remains that in the midst of this vastness and variety of life there is a unity of common needs, for which there are common supplies. Every man needs suitable shelter, food, clothing, and every man may see how to get them. So every man needs a sense of safety in the hands of God, an assurance of His love, for his daily bread, and, like Job, to put on righteousness," and be "clothed" by it, or to be right. These are for no class but for all, and within the reach of all. Not absoutely, for to finite beings all is relative. But, with this qualification, the essential commandments and obedience have always and everywhere been within the reach of all. There never was a place or period in which men were without obligation. Without that man would have ceased to be man. The possession of that made obedience or disobedience possible, implied commands and the possibility of obedience. As Paul to the Romans puts it, men, whenever, wherever, or whoever, have been "a law unto themselves," and "without excuse."
But whoever has made a special study of any department or sphere of life may render others great service in simply reporting and explaining the commandments God has written there. Concerning all the temporal phases of life this is clear, and it ought to be equally so of the spiritual. If the specially endowed with sight and taste for agriculture, mechanics, commerce, art or medicine, who has made it the business of his life to find what God, in its nature, has said about, and so commanded concerning it, can help others by revealing or reporting that, why not he who has been equally or more endowed with sight and taste for spiritual things, and who has equally devoted himself to these. In either case he comes to us with only the authority of a reporter, and that authority is measured by his fitness to report. With prima facie proof of this, we welcome his report as the commandments of God, and are grateful. But, discovering that his report contradicts our own knowledge or experience, all this is reversed. If able to see that what he reports does not inhere in the nature of the case, his report is worthless. In vain might the mathematical professor of the University report to the primary pupil five as the product of three and two. Once this, in the name of exalted station and authority, might have been accepted by the child, but having once seen that "three times two are six " inheres in mathematics, all pretense of authority to the contrary goes for nothing.
Once, and perhaps now to some, it could, in the name of personal authority, be made clear that the commandments of God were against cleanliness, lightning conductors, winnowers, vaccination, anæsthetics. But if there be any doubt now in the minds of the free and thoughtful, it must be simply as to whether all such pretence is more puerile or blasphemous. Tradition, if nothing more trustworthy, tells us that our Puritan Fathers reported that God's command concerning the Sabbath implied prohibition of laughing and kissing on "Lord's Day." But probably no one now can find that prohibition in either personal or social human nature. Moses reported that the commandment of God was against "gathering sticks on the Sabbath Day," and that God's penalty for this was death