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Written by John R. Respess   

 

ALL MEN ACCOUNTABLE TO GOD

“When the virgins were gathered together the second time, Mordecai sat in the king’s gate.”

It must be borne in mind that these virgins were the pick of the king’s empire. In physical, mental and moral beauty they were at the top, and had no equals. Their lack of spiritual grace or faith did not destroy their mental and moral beauty, nor lessen their obligation, nor do away with, in any degree, their accountability to the king in those things in which they were gifted. There had been much given them in mind and morals, and much, therefore, was required of them. Cain and Abel, the two first-born of the human race, made offerings unto the Lord, and Cain’s was rejected and Abel’s accepted. This enraged Cain, and the Lord said to him, Why art thou wroth; if thou doest well shalt not thou be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. We see, therefore, that Cain’s obligation to God did not cease with the rejection of his offering; that though be was incapable of making a spiritual offering, or one in faith, that he was not thereby relieved of making such as he was able to make; nor deprived of the blessing accruing from it. Natural and moral blessings accrue alike to saint and sinner in offerings to the natural and moral law. The idle and thriftless Christian, following after vain persons will suffer the same as idle and thriftless sinners. A drunken Christian’s headache will not only be as bad as the sinner’s, but his heartache will be ten fold worse. Cain was not, therefore, licensed to murder his brother by God’s rejection of his offering, and His acceptance of Abel’s; but was under the same obligation to God as before to reverence and obey Him and love his brother. Abel’s acceptance did Cain no injury, nor would the acceptance of Cain’s offering have done him any good; it would not have changed his condition, or made him in heart any better a man than before. It would have been an injury to him, in making him believe that he was what he was not. It was not the offering of either of them that changed the heart, but it was the changed heart of Abel that made his offering differ from Cain’s. Nor would the acceptance of Abel’s offering have influenced him to despise Cain and caused him to think that he was naturally better than Cain, but it would rather tend to increase his obligations to do him good, even good for evil. Man is not relieved of obligation to God as his creator and sovereign by election; the gifts bestowed by God upon the Elect do the world no harm, nor do they lessen the world’s obligation to God. It is a vain and sinful thought arising in man’s mind when he says, “If election is true, I may do as I please, and I shall not be judged;” for he will be judged and righteously condemned for sins for which he is responsible, and it will be as just as Cain’s was. He will not be condemned for inability to offer spiritual offerings, or offerings in faith to God, but will be condemned for sin. And sin is the transgression of law, and the unregenerate, not being under the spiritual law, are not condemned for spiritual transgression, because they cannot be guilty of it. The regenerate can, because they are, by regeneration, under it. But the unregenerate are under natural and moral law, and can, therefore, transgress or sin and be condemned for it.

Man in his best estate, before he fell by transgression, could not have offered a spiritual offering to God. This cannot be done by a mere creature of God, but only by a regenerated creature or child of God. The creature must be born again to offer in faith. But as said, moral and natural gifts involve like responsibilities. The gift of life, of time, involve all in obligation to improve the time profitably; and we sin when we waste it in idleness and profligacy. The gift of rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness, bring all, both saint and sinner, under renewed obligations to reverence and honor our Creator.

In times past God suffered all nations, except the Jews, to walk in their own ways, nevertheless, he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons; in time of that ignorance God winked at— that is, he blessed them with natural blessings, notwithstanding their vice and immorality; but now, in the end of the world, he commands all men every where to repent of their immorality; because, having taught them better, and thus augmenting their obligations, he requires better of them, failing in which he will now judge or punish them for that at which he before winked. This is a moral repentance and the fulfilling of moral obligations to God as individuals and nations. And hence is the reason why Chorazin and Capernaum should have more intolerable punishment than Tyre, Sidon and Sodom; because these cities had moral advantages above those heathen cities, and yet with them they were worse than the heathen. That which would be intolerable to one man, would be but little torment to another. The sin that torments the Christian is a pleasure to the hardened profligate. When an individual or nation to whom God has given special favors perverts them, turning them into a curse, they are like Israel under Rehoboam, who suffered a whip under Solomon, but under his son they were chastised with scorpions.

 

DANGER OF BAD HABITS

When a moral man breaks the hedge that morality throws around him, a serpent bites him, and thus weakened, he is in danger of falling, like the Gaderene, into a legion of vices, and becoming a hardened profligate. The mother (2 Kings, vii.) who boiled her son and ate him, did not come at once to a so diabolical and unnatural crime, but slowly and by degrees. When the thought first suggested itself to her mind, she no doubt repelled it with horror; but day after day of scarcity and hunger, and pinching starvation, gradually wore away her repulsion, and familiarized the (at first) horrible thought until her conscience and heart were hardened for it, and she could consent to the sin that at first she would have died before doing. When at our first boarding school, we remember the horror we felt the first time we saw card-playing. We would not enter the room, but stood at the door looking with amazement at the men engaged in so impious an act. We had been taught that playing at cards generally led to gambling, and that gambling led to lying, cheating, drunkenness, and often to murder. But in, perhaps, less than one month we had learned to play. One step led to another, until we could bet a little, and afterwards could lie and cheat, and swear to it. We were never much engaged in such things, except in idle hours at college, but we went far enough in it to know what it would lead to. The gentle boy, with downy face as soft and sweet as an innocent girl’s, takes his first social drink in a tippling shop, and blushes almost scarlet as he thinks of his mother’s fond embrace of a moment ago; but in a few months, with full-mouthed profanity, he can gulp down glassful after glassful, and swagger hollow-eyed in the vilest dens of shame. Alas, if we knew how many boys have gone from their first bar-room drink to the chain-gang or gallows, and how heart-broken mothers have gone down to the grave on account of them, we would be inspired to warn the young against them more than we do. The heart of a Christian can become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin so that he can, in his eager greed for money, listen almost unconcerned to the plaintive cry of the poor and needy. To what depth of shame and degradation men may go, little by little, we cannot tell; but low enough for the contemplation of it to fill us with horror. Think of the awful degradation of the people of Sodom! “Men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.” A city so given up that not even five moral men were to be found in it. From a habit of little exaggerations men may be gradually led into bare-faced lying. A man may have a horse to sell and misrepresent his age and qualities, and not tell a direct lie, but still deceive his neighbor. But deception is lying. We heard of a man once who lied in this way when called upon for money. He named one of his pockets “the world,” and would say he had not a cent in “the world.” And he was silly enough to think he could say that and not tell a lie, when it was indeed as bad as a bare-faced lie. So a man may lie religiously by professing to feel what he does not feel, or by professing to be better than he is or worse than he is. Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find”—Prov., xx., 6. A man is faithful only when he speaks and acts under the influence of the Spirit.

 

CONCUBINES

These virgins could not, after having been so elevated as to go in unto the king, have been the lawful wives of any other man, at least of any man of less than kingly dignity. They had been rejected as wives and queens, but that did not divest them of the high responsibility of their calling. A great man may be unfit for the church, and yet be well qualified for usefulness as a ruler and teacher of men; spiritual gifts are not required of him, but mental gifts are. Whilst he is not a son or child of God, he is none the less a servant of God. Naaman, the Syrian, was a great man of the world; not only a man cultivated in mind, and morals, but one who had the courage of his convictions. He could reprove a demoralized public opinion though the multitude was against him, and God gave moral and civil deliverance by him. He served God in that sense before he was changed; and so did Paul. But after he was brought to the prophet in Israel, and was humbled and cleansed by grace, he was then a son of God and also a servant of the king of Assyria. But his service was now in a different spirit than before; his service to the king of Assyria was a service to God in spirit, and was the service of one who serves in love, which will never fail. Vashti’s service was only a letter service; the Jew’s service as a nation under the law failed, because it was only a service in the letter and not in spirit. Had it been in Spirit they would never have been broken off and cast away. These virgins, with all their excellence, were only united to the king in the letter, and their service could only be a letter service; it could not be spiritual. They were not wives, but concubines. Their standing was upon their works, and not upon their faith; and such works were acceptable to the king as long as they were right in the letter, but the moment there was a failure in that they fell. But it was not a falling from grace or love, for that they never had. The wife could not be put away; we say could not, because there would be no disposition in the husband to put her away; for being united in love, there would be no disposition in either of them to be separated. Separation would be the most heart-rending thing either of them could contemplate—what man loving his wife can think of her death without an unspeakable pang to his soul. They are as Christ and the church are, one.

Under Moses a husband could put away his wife for an uncleanness that did not perhaps amount to a sexual crime, by giving her a bill of divorcement; but under Christ it cannot be done. Because under Moses it was a letter union, but under the gospel it is a union of spirit, so that a man cannot put away his wife and marry another, except for sexual crime. And sexual crime in the wife shows that the marriage was never one in spirit or in love, and never more than a state of mere concubinage on her part.

Whilst the union of the king and concubines was not one in spirit, it was one however involving them in great responsibilities, and of such dignity, that infidelity to its obligations was a sin of such degree as to shame the king and empire. Absalom by the crafty counsel of Ahithophel went in unto David’s concubines in sight of all Israel to strengthen his rebellious and patricidal cause by an act so infamous and unpardonable that his followers might know that the breach was irreparable, and reconciliation with his father impossible. Hagar’s service to her mistress was acceptable until her son Ishmael mocked Isaac and sought the inheritance; then she was put away; for the slave or servant could not inherit with Isaac the free-born son. The service of the moral law is good in its place, but when sought to be made meritorious in eternal salvation it is put away, because it would displace Christ and his grace.

So at this time every one was put in his proper place, for the Jew, Mordecai, sat in the gate. The spirit of the law was enforced. When Paul felt the spirit of the law he cried out I am carnal sold under sin. He was not what before he thought he was. He now and ever afterward felt the need of Christ.

 
IN OFFICE

“Then Mordecai sat in the king’s gate.”

This was a trust of honor and great responsibility even for a native born subject; but for a member of that despised, impoverished, subjugated race, the Jews, it implied a trust and confidence of the most exalted character. As if, in these days of political and personal corruption and office-seeking, an humble Primitive Baptist should be sought by the people for a high position, and be entrusted with great power and responsibility in spite of his despised religion, it would be an expression of public confidence in his integrity and capacity far in excess of that in one selected of a popular religious faith. It should be an indication of good for the country, and the manifestation of a great need of, and a strong desire for, honest and faithful civil service. It would be the office seeking the man, because of his fitness and the public need, and in which contempt for his religious faith would be swallowed up by confidence in his integrity. A Christian, impelled by the right spirit, will rarely if ever seek an office of honor simply for the honor of it, but will rather avoid, if possible, responsibilities both in Church and State. In fact, he will accept office in State as in Church, from a sense of duty to God. People of the world are not actuated by this spirit, but by the spirit of the world; and they may be, and often are faithful from motives of patriotism, honor, self-esteem and aspirations for future and higher elevation. It is, therefore, a rare thing for a genuine Christian to be in high office; not only because of his unpopular faith, but also because but few of them are qualified for high places. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called,” etc.—1 Cor., i., 26. So when they are rightly invested with such trusts, it may be considered providential, or of God. It was in this spirit that Esther sat as queen upon the throne, and that Mordecai sat in the king’s gate. He was a Jew (Christian, or spiritual man) there as he would have been in his worship in the temple; as in the temple his offerings and sacrifices were to God, so in the king’s gate his obedience was to God. So Esther was a Jew (spiritual) upon the throne as queen, and a Jew as the king’s wife. Her responsibilities to God were not diminished by her high calling, but greatly augmented. As a Jew she was required by law to God to be faithful as a queen and faithful as a wife. As Jews, their first, highest and only service was service to God, and that prompted and required fidelity to natural, moral and civil responsibilities, as well as religious or spiritual responsibilities. In fact, spiritual responsibilities embrace all responsibilities. They were faithful, therefore, not because the king’s law required it, but because God’s law required it. A Christian man is faithful to civil and moral law not because he expects to be saved by it, but because God requires it of his people.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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