"Among the cities which you shall give unto the Levites,
there shall be six cities for Refuge." Numb. 35:6.
REFUGE is a thought dear to every Christian heart. It is,
as haven to the ship, when clouds blacken--as dove-cote to the bird, when
hawks pursue. When once the wrath of God is seen in its true light--when
once the conscience has turned pale in terror--when once hell's gulf has
opened at the feet--when once the quenchless flames have glared in prospect,
despair must seize its prey, unless some Refuge be discerned. But Christ a
sure Refuge stands, high as the heavens, wide as infinity, lasting as the
An emblem now is given--seal of this Gospel-fact. Some
types of Christ appeared for a brief season, and then vanished. The guiding
cloud, the manna, and the flowing stream ended on Jordan's banks. But here
is a sign, which lived through Canaan's history. It never failed, until the
cross was reared.
The story of the ordinance is brief. The case was
possible, that man, without intent--without one evil or revengeful thought,
might stain his hands in human blood. An unaimed blow might fall. An
undirected arrow might wound fatally. There might be murder unawares.
When such event took place, a kinsman was permitted to
arise in wrath, and claim the slayer's life. The law gave license to take
blood for blood. He, who had slain, was open to be slain.
Reader, conceive the hapless injurer's state.
Peace--happiness--security, were fled forever. Each sight would startle.
Each rustling sound would bring alarm. The crowd was peril, for there the
kinsman might unsheath his sword. In deep retirement, some ambush might be
laid. Thus every spot and every hour would threaten death to the poor
trembler's mind. His life was one continual terror.
But Israel's God ordains a means to rescue from such life
long woe. He bids, that several cities should be set apart. In number they
are six. They are distributed throughout the land. Thus no place is very
distant from these walls. They stand on lofty hills, conspicuous from afar.
They are to be sanctuaries. The manslayer, reaching their Refuge, was at
once secure. The angry kinsman might not enter. The townsmen might not close
their gates, by day nor night--nor cast the fleeing stranger out. Here then
security enclosed him in its arms. Here he might turn and boldly face his
enemy. He had the felt reality of full escape. He knew, that every danger
was left far behind, and that his days might now glide sweetly, without one
shadow of alarm. But he must closely keep within the covering walls. Outside
there still was danger. If he but stepped beyond the bounds, his life was
open to the kinsman's blow.
He must abide thus sheltered, while the high-priest
lived. That death dissolved avenging claims--and then the slayer was at
large. Instantly he might go forth--and unmolested move from place to place.
It is recorded, that all care was taken to help the
slayer in his flight. Wide roads were formed, and kept in strict repair. All
hindrances were smoothed. And at each turn, where doubt might rise, posts
were erected, which on their pointing arms proclaimed, "Refuge, Refuge!"
Such is the type. Spirit of love, arise to teach! Send
forth Your Christ-revealing light! Grant, that some soul may hence discern
the truth of Gospel-Refuge.
Poor sinner, this type at once displays your case. The
slayer is your counterpart. Perhaps, startled, you cry, "What, are my hands
blood-stained?" In answer take this truth. There may be murder, though no
man be slain. There may be carnage of duties--talents--time--souls. And
alas! there is. No day, no hour, passes in which this guilt is not incurred.
Earth seems a battle-field, in which we level blows at God's just claims. It
is a charnel-house piled with the skeletons of slaughtered means of grace.
Our words and looks are often arrows barbed with deathful poison. Who treads
not upon slain opportunities of good? There may not always be premeditation
in the sin. But as the manslayer did not plot his deed, so sinners
blindly commit these murders through ignorance and unwatched thought.
Take now the sinner awakened to the sense of this guilt.
He is as the slayer rushing in terror from the kinsman's wrath. He knows
himself to be pursued. Vengeance is pressing at his very heels. An arm is
raised to fell him to the ground. The furious sword is glittering near. The
bow is bent. The arrow is poised upon the string. Another moment, and the
fatal wound is given. His mind is agony. Each fiber quivers. Tremblings
beset him. You conscience-stricken, say, is not this your terrified
One kinsman only hunted the slayer. But many adversaries
threaten the guilt-stained soul. Mark the long troop. See, how it rushes on.
God's JUSTICE takes the lead. It has strong claims. Its wrongs are many. It
has clear right to execute revenge. And it is swift, as God is swift--and
strong, as God is strong--and dreadful, as God is dreadful. Can man escape?
Ah! sinner, tremble! This foe is near. Its wrath is righteous. Its aim is
sure. If you are caught in nature's plain, you surely die. If you are
clad in nature's armor, you have no safeguard. You must perish.
The LAW is in pursuit, winged with all vengeance. It
demands pure unblemished love to God, from the cradle to the grave--from
first to last breath--in every child of man, whatever be his
station--talent--rank. Exception cannot be. All, who transgress, become its
prey. And who transgresses not? Where is the thought, in which love reigns
supreme? Where is the moment free from blame? This law must have its dues.
It follows sternly. It can never spare. Its curse rolls onward, as a
swelling flood, to sweep offenders into the dread abyss. Ah! sinner,
tremble! Unless your head has some almighty shelter, you cannot escape.
The TRUTH of God, too, points an inexorable sword. It has
decreed, that every sinner must die. Can it recall the righteous word? Can
it be false? But false it is, unless the vengeance falls. Sinner, what
shield will hide you from this blow?
SATAN moreover follows with huge strides. He claims the
sinning soul as his. He has commission to destroy all, who are sin-marked.
His eye is keen. His steps have lightning speed. His hate is bitter. He
delights to slaughter souls, and drag them to the beds of flames! Ah!
sinner, tremble! This cruel foe will surely seize you, unless you reach some
shelter higher far than earth--some fortress stronger far than human arm can
These adversaries rush on speedily. Who undismayed can
hear their nearing steps? Thus the fleeing manslayer is a faint shadow of
the pursued sinner. Do any cry, 'where shall we flee? Is there a
Refuge?' The question opens the main tidings of this type. Yes. The
sheltering cities represent our Refuge. Would that all multitudes, who
throng this earth, could hear the blessed truth! Would that a voice of
thunder could pervade all lands, proclaiming–'Refuge!' Would that from shore
to shore--from hill to hill--from plain to plain, the echo might resound, 'a
Refuge is prepared, full--complete--secure!'
Draw near, you guilty sons of men. You need not die.
Approach, all you, whom sin oppresses--conscience terrifies--and torturing
memory scares. You may be safe. Flee, all who tremble, lest your souls
should perish. You may have peace. Fears may be lulled. Anguish may proceed
to joy. You may face every foe, and laugh to scorn their every threat. There
is a Refuge. It is Christ the Lord. Flee to Him! Flee!
God has been pleased, in wondrous love, in overflowing
grace, to set Him as a sheltering sanctuary. The word is pledged, that all
in Him are everlastingly secure. "There is therefore now no condemnation to
those who are in Christ Jesus." Rom. 8:1.
Let faith now calmly gaze on this city, and mark its
TOWERS. Christ's person is the grand pillar of security. His strength
is full omnipotence. He is Jehovah-Jesus. Who then can snatch from His
protecting arms? No one, who is not mightier than God, can burst these
gates. While Jesus lives, and lives the mighty God, this safety is complete.
His finished work builds up the Refuge. The walls--the
bulwarks of this city--are red with blood. There is inscribed above each
gate--"Christ died." Justice draws near. It sees the mark--and asks no more.
The wounds of Christ are the deep grave of God's avenging sword. Believer,
you may meet justice with the bold challenge, 'Nothing is due from me. My
heavenly Surety paid His life for mine. In Him--by Him--I clear your
The law's stern curse falls harmless here. It falls,
indeed, because it may not be infringed. But Christ receives its weight. And
all, locked up in Him, are as unharmed, as Noah within the ark.
Satan pursues up to these gates. But here he pauses.
Wherever he finds sin, there he demands his prey. Polluted souls bear mark,
that they are his. But all within these walls are washed, and cleansed, and
purified, and clothed, and beautified. He must confess, that they are no
more his. He must retreat. Their sins are blotted out. Therefore he cannot
Blessed be God, for this sure Refuge! Reader, imagine
every foe in eager chase. See them advancing, in strong flood. Mark their
wild rage and frantic hate. Hear their affrighting menaces. See their
terrific weapons. Survey the fearsome army. Then rush to Jesus. From all He
rescues. From all He shelters. The vilest sinner, nestling in His arms, is
safe--safe, as the inhabitants of the highest heaven--safe, as Jehovah on
Mark, too, this Refuge is AT HAND. In Israel the slayer
had to flee oftimes along a tedious road. But our city stands right beside
us. At each moment the cry is in our ears, 'Behold Me. Behold Me.' "But the
way of getting right with God through faith says, "You don't need to go to
heaven" (to find Christ and bring him down to help you). And it says, "You
don't need to go to the place of the dead" (to bring Christ back to life
again). Salvation that comes from trusting Christ—which is the message we
preach—is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say,
"The message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart."
Romans 10:6-8. Outstretched arms invite you. Fall this day within them. The
gates are close. Enter this hour. Now all is ready. Oh! linger not. Now is
the accepted time.
Believer, you are within this Refuge. You know it to be
home of joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Your experience testifies, that
its climate is "the peace of God, which passes all understanding." Surely,
then, you will cleave tightly to it. Set not one foot beyond the holy
precincts. Many temptations will allure you to come forth. Oh! stir not.
Abide in Christ. If in unguarded moment you should stray, how instantly some
fearful blow is aimed! How suddenly some wound is felt!
Would you be safe through life--in death--forever? Then
cleave to Christ, as ivy to the tree, as limpet to the rock. When Israel's
high-priest died, the slayer left his shelter. But your High-Priest forever
lives, therefore forever you must tarry in your Shelter.
And when you realize your mercies and your safe retreat,
can your heart fail to love--your lips to praise--your life to serve? Can
you now see such multitudes exposed to wrath, and almost death-struck, and
not allure them to your beloved Refuge? Strive, strive, by every means to
call them in. Above all, agonize in prayer, that God's all-conquering Spirit
may fly speedily throughout earth's bounds, opening blind eyes to see their
danger, exciting anxious hearts to rush to this only Refuge.