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"What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to
love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God?"—Micah 6:8 .
WHO could find fault with these requirements? Who could say that in setting such a standard for his creatures the Almighty required too much? On the other hand, how could we imagine a just and loving Heavenly Father requiring less than is here stipulated. God's law, variously stated, always amounts to the same thing. The statement of it, as given to the Jews at Mt. Sinai, embodied in the Decalogue, corresponds with this statement, as does also the presentation of it set forth by the great Teacher, saying, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, soul and strength; and thy neighbor as thyself."
Many of us, after confessing with St. Paul that the Divine Law is holy and just and good, have been surprised to find that that which our minds heartily approve, we are unable to obey—to the full. For thirty-five hundred years the Jews have sought to keep that Divine Law, under the promise of eternal life for so doing, but none [R4821 : page 154] of them have been able to gain the prize. When as a nation they realize their inability, and not sooner, they will be ready to receive at God's hands, as a free gift through the Redeemer, the forgiveness of their violations of the Divine Law. And then, under their New Covenant (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:8-13), they will have Messiah's assistance in regaining that perfection of mind and body and a "new heart," which will enable them to obey in every particular the Divine Law, which all our minds recognize as just and true, but which, because of heredity, we are unable to perfectly obey in the flesh.
That blessing, which is soon to come to natural Israel, under Messiah's Kingdom and the New Covenant, will be extended through them, as the natural seed of Abraham, to every nation, kindred and tongue, in harmony with the Divine promise made to Abraham.
A different, although a corresponding favor, is now, in advance, bestowed upon a small class gathered from Jews and Gentiles, and Scripturally known as the "Church of the First-Borns, whose names are written in Heaven." These, in advance, realize their inability to keep the Divine Law, and by faith lay hold upon the Redeemer's merit and consecrate their all to God through him. In the Redeemer they are accepted of the Father; their heart endeavors for righteousness are recognized, and the flesh and its imperfections are renounced and counted as dead and are offset by the merit of the Redeemer. These are Scripturally classed as members of the Great Prophet, Priest, King and Mediator between God and men. The thought of our text will be completed when all the faithful, as members of the Messiah, "the little flock," shall be made joint-heirs with him, as "the Bride, the Lamb's Wife."
We may demonstrate to ourselves the truthfulness of the foregoing: What is it to do justly? It means much more than not to overcharge our neighbor for the goods he may purchase of us. It means much more than not to defraud him in the making of change. To deal justly means justice between servant and master, mistress and maid, buyer and seller—that we should do to others as we would that they should do to us; it means the strict following of the Golden Rule enjoined by the Great Teacher.
Applying this principle of justice to our words, it means that we should not speak evil of either friend or foe; that we should not even insinuate evil. It means that we should not tell unnecessarily what we know to be the truth, if it would harm our neighbor, disparage him and discredit him in the eyes of others. It means that we should love our neighbor and his interests as we love our own, and should defend his interests and guard them as carefully as we would our own.
Justice, in order to thus operate in our words and deeds, must operate in our hearts—in our minds. "As [R4821 : page 155] a man thinketh, so is he." If he thinks unkindly, ungenerously, unjustly, he will find it impossible always to avoid unkind, unjust, unloving words or actions. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." It follows, then, that to do justly signifies absolute righteousness in thought, in word, in conduct. Of this none of us is capable. The nearest approach to this is the perfect or just intention of the heart, covenanted by all those who become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The intentions and good endeavors of these are accepted of the Father. As for the world, it will require long years of assistance and uplifting out of weaknesses and imperfections of the flesh to bring them to where their thoughts, words and deeds will be absolutely just and in full accordance with the Golden Rule. Their attainment of this will mean their getting rid of all the imperfections of the flesh and, by full restitution, returning to the image and likeness of God lost in Adam.
All recognize mercy as a very proper, a very desirable quality. All realize their need of Divine mercy. All should know that the Divine purpose is that only those who show mercy to others will themselves receive mercy at the Lord's hands. Many, however, while admitting all this and while seeking to practice mercy, do not love it. Rather, they love vengeance, and are merely constrained to mercy by the laws of the land, public sentiment and the Word of God. Time and again this has been shown in the case of lynchings. Mobs have gathered for the infliction of punishment, glad of an opportunity for setting aside mercy and letting loose justice, as they might express it. And in those mobs have been many guilty of perhaps as great crimes as the one who was mobbed. "O, consistency, thou art a jewel!"
By a strange perversity of our fallen nature, those most able and willing to follow the first two requirements are apt to be the most delinquent in this third requirement. In a word, the just and merciful are very apt to find themselves possessed of a spirit of pride, a feeling of superiority to their fellows, a hindrance to their having a humble walk with God. Those most humble toward the Almighty are frequently those who have had great sins and great weaknesses, which have helped to humble them. Thus the great Apostle, St. Paul, was allowed to retain a measure of visual weakness as a reminder of the time when he was a persecutor of Christ—of the "Church which is his Body"—as a reminder of how the grace of God apprehended him on the way to Damascus, and that without the Divine interposition he might have continued hopelessly blind.
The Apostle refers to his weakness of eyes as a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan permitted to buffet him. The Lord declined to remove the affliction, doubtless because it would keep the Apostle humble enough to attend properly to the great work God had for him to do without being puffed up to his own injury. The Divine message was, "My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness." Realizing the import of this the Apostle cried out, "Rather, therefore, will I glory in mine infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
And so may all God's people, while realizing their inability to live up to these Divine requirements, rejoice in the Divine provision on their behalf that God's grace is sufficient for them, where their weakness is recognized and confessed and abhorred, and his mercy appreciated, sought and accepted.