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thing little or no disgrace, when people are to be married afterwards, as Shechem and Dinah were ; but it was not so then; her family felt they were disgraced, and not without reason : for, as it is expressly said at the end of the verse I have just repeated, “ Such a thing ought not to be done.” God taught even them that thus to forestall marriage was a foul sin and disgrace; and yet we hardly think it so, we who live in the very purest and fullest light of God's blessed Gospel : and shall these things go unpunished ? It is fearful to think how much God's displeasure may be day by day, and year by year, provoked against us of this country, for the great dishonour we thus do to the sacred mystery of marriage; and this, though the Church so plainly teaches us in the Prayer Book, and in the other lessons she has read to us out of the Bible, things so great and high concerning marriage, things surpassing man's understanding. For is not marriage greatly and grievously profaned, when a man deals with her as a harlot whom he means to have as his wife? or when she who means to be a wife, first begins by making herself a harlot ?
The sons of Jacob had cause to be grieved, but they had more cause for grief than for anger: for their sister was more to be blamed than he; first, in having idly left her father ; secondly, in listening to a seducer. But they felt rather the disgrace before men than the sin in the sight of God; "they were very angry.” And unrestrained anger never yet mended any evil. The wrath of man," says St. James, “worketh not the righteousness of God?.”
Simeon and Levi formed a plan for executing a terrible vengeance upon Shechem and all belonging to him, for the disgrace they had sustained. And, blinded by their passion, they did not perceive they were disgracing themselves more by their treachery and cruelty, than they had been disgraced already by their sister's dishonour. They held out treacherous offers of friendship to the unsuspecting family of Shechem, and polluted the solemn rite of circumcision, by which they themselves had been brought into covenant with God, by making it an instrument for their cowardly schemes and cruel purposes.
• The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father
2 James i. 20.
deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister :" -and see how it was the remembrance of their dishonour that made them so wrathful—they said unto them, “ In this will we consent unto you: if ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised ; then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.”
You see how their anger had blinded them. They did not perceive how they were disgracing themselves by such treachery and falsehood, and causing that no man would hereafter believe them. Shechem's fellow-citizens suspected nothing, but they hearkened to his earnest persuasions, for he, it seems, was greatly respected amongst them; "he was more honourable,” it is said, “than all the house of his father.” Then, on the third day, when they could not defend themselves, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah's brothers, entered the city, sword in hand, and slew them all, including Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoiled the city, and took possession of their wives and their children, their flocks and their herds.
To this cruel, cowardly, and treacherous act, their father was no party ; this he witnessed of himself on his dying bed. For when he had spoken of "the instruments of cruelty that were in their habitation,” he added, “O my soul, come not thou into their secret ;” meaning to say, God forbid he should have ever been a partaker in this their wicked plot.
He reproved them, moreover, afterwards for what they had done. He said, “ Ye have troubled me, and made me to stink among the inhabitants of the land," i. e. you have brought me to foul disgrace and dishonour amongst them. They will distrust us, and hate us : And I, being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me, and I shall be destroyed, I and my house."
And observe moreover their answer; for it shows how deeplyrooted in their hearts was the sense of the dishonour done to them. And they said,
Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot ?" they meant, because he had not waited for marriage, but had dishonoured her first; and this they felt a foul disgrace, although he offered, and not only offered, but earnestly sought marriage afterwards.
And so far were they right; that it was a foul disgrace in the sight of God and man to their sister and to her family, as well as to him who had done the wrong: but it was a disgrace and sin to be washed out by the penitential tears of those that had sinned, and to be effaced by their amendment; not to be aggravated and increased as it was by unrestrained wrath, hurrying them on to the crimes of treacherous murder and spoil.
And, like people do when carried away with anger, they had made no distinction between the guilty and the innocent; but not only Shechem, but his father and his innocent fellow-countrymen were all destroyed by the same act of bloody vengeance.
Thus did they begin to be cruel to strangers, and they ended in being treacherous and cruel, as we shall see next Sunday, to their brother and aged father, whose grey hairs they well nigh brought down with sorrow to the grave.
Now if you desire to be the better for what you have heard to day, do you this evening read over attentively this chapter that I have been explaining, the 34th of Genesis, the first lesson appointed for this evening's service; if you cannot read yourself, see if you cannot get some kind fellow-Christian to read it to
ou And as you read it, or hear it, try and think of what I have told you, especially of the necessity of keeping a constant check and restraint upon yourself. Such thoughts, profitable as they are at all times, are peculiarly suitable for this present season of Lent. For one great purpose of fasting is to weaken our passions of every kind, that our flesh may be subdued to the spirit, and so we may be better able to govern and restrain ourselves.
Besides which, now at this season of penitence, ever than at all other times, should we search into our past lives, and our present practice, and see whether at any time we have been led either by unmortified desire of any kind, or by unrestrained anger, to do, and say, and think things offensive to our Holy God. I mention both our past lives and present practice, in order that we may not too readily think that past sins are things gone by; not only are they noted in God's book, but the evil consequences of past transgressions often cleave to our hearts, and poison them long after their com mission-passions once indulged gain strength, and so much life, that it seems
almost impossible to deaden them; and we are apt to think far less of an approach to a sin, when we have once been guilty of it.
Therefore it is necessary, while we humble ourselves for the sins of our past lives, we should look carefully into our present practice, and see whether they do not still cleave to us in some form or other
For instance, one who has been guilty of swearing, even if he has quite left off that evil habit, must see whether he may be always watchful over the language he uses, that it be not hasty and ill considered; and still more must those who have ever defiled themselves in any way with sins of impurity, look well to see whether they have made the thoughts and imaginations of the heart clean also. For God we know looks at the heart. Is our heart in such a state that He can look upon us with favour?
Would you say you hope He may for Christ's sake? Then if your hope be in Christ, Christ ought to be in your hearts. For unless Jesus Christ be in us, we are reprobates 3. And consider how pure and meek your heart must be, if the Lord of all meekness and purity is to make it His dwelling.
These two passions above all let us make it our great labour and prayer to subdue and keep in subjection, anger and lust. These are the things that lead captive corrupt man till he is renewed by God's SPIRIT, For in our corrupted nature they are stronger than reason.
One great aim of our Lord's teaching was to pluck these out of our hearts from the very roots, to guard us against all approach to them; therefore He declared causeless and immoderate anger was an approach to the guilt of murder, a lustful look was as adultery.
May He, our Heavenly Teacher, by the mighty help of His own SPIRIT, enable us to live according to His teaching, to make clean and meek what is within, to put off from us impurity and wrath, that our hearts may be fit for His indwelling, and that He may live and rule there, schooling us in all purity and meekness, after His own blessed image.
3 2 Cor. xiii. 5.
So may we hope, hereafter, to be made more perfectly like Him, when we are to see Him as He is. We cannot see HIM now-bad passions and wild desires more or less blind our hearts ; the more pure and the more meek we learn to be, the more shall we be able to see our God.
May He, therefore, ever preserve us from being engaged in the wild and angry quarrels, the sinful and greedy contentions of this wretched world; may He deaden the lusts that war in our members, the fruitful sources of all this strife, so that we may ever serve Him in peace and purity; may we learn to behold Him always here by faith and love; and becoming daily more and more like Him, may we be made at last by His Grace fit to dwell with Him for ever in those blessed mansions of everlasting peace and purity, where no strife may ever enter, nor any thing that can defile.