« PreviousContinue »
this stage of their marching through thee 'wilderness, distinguished by a name which betokened and com memorated their faithfulness, obedience and submission. Instead of this, the names Massah and Meri. bah, must transmit to all generations the memory of temptation, chiding, and strife. Happily the monuments of human frailty, folly and guilt, are also the monuments of the divine patience, forbearance and tender mercy. 6 But the law had only a shadow of good things to come.” Where Moses leaves us, Isaiah takes us by the hand, and leads us on our way, pointing to Him whom all prophecy revealed, and saying, “Behold a King shall reign in righteousness and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,” Isa. xxxii. 1, 2. And the apostle of the Gentiles conducts our weary wandering steps from the rock in Horeb to the rock Christ, from whence issues the mighty “river, which makes glad the city of God;" and which affords, not a transitory, temporary refreshment, but a perpetual never-failing supply, 66 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ,” i Cor. x. 1, &c. The words of the apostle insinuate, that the stream which issued from the rock in the wilderness continued to Aow, and accompany their progress through the desert during the remainder of their long pilgrimage, till, being arrived at the land of promise, a land watered with the dew of heaven, and the abun. dance of the rivers, a miraculous supply being unne. cessary, was withdrawn.
Thus was the gospel preached to them of old time. The solid rock became, as it were, moveable; " and followed them” wheresoever they went. The adamant was melted into a pool for their refreshment. Blessed type of Him who in his own person accommodated the immutability of the divine nature to the ne. cessity and the relief of human misery! Blessed type of that stream of blood flowing from the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and " which taketh away the sins of the world!” Blessed type of that - consolation that is in Christ Jesus,” for the weary and heavy laden, for the guilty and the wretched, for the faint and dying! Blessed type of that precious stream which has flowed in every age, and is flowing to every nation and people under heaven; and which never leaves the path of the Zion-traveller, till, through the midst of Jordan, he stands on the delightful shore of the Canaan that is above, where it becomes “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, there is the tree of life, which bears twelve man. ner of fruits, and yeildeth her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it: and his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face: and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun: for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Rev. xxii. 1, &c.
In the recapitulation of this wonderful history in the book of Numbers, an interesting and important circumstance is recorded, which in Exodus is suppressed; and which we must here irsert, that we may view the event complete in all its parts, and that we may feel it in all its force. The miracle of extracting water from
the rock, which proved so salutary to the people, became fatal to Moses himself. And this he, with his native candor and simplicity, thus relates; “ And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them,” Numb. xx. 9, &c. For the illustration and improvement of which, we beg your attention to the following remarks.
Observe, first, The credit which is due to the sacred writers in general, and to Moses in particular, for their fidelity and integrity in relating those particulars of their temper and conduct which are the object of censure and condemnation, as well as those which merit applause. Indeed, they do both with the same “ simplicity and godly sincerity.” They never appear solicitous to celebrate their own praise, and if glory may redoud to God, and edification to men, they honestly publish their own shame. Unlike the generality of mankind, who are perpetually catching at opportunities to introduce their dear selves, that they may be valued and admired: and, with equal anxiety, drawing a veil over their errors and imperfections. But these holy men delivered not their testimony “ according to the will of man,” nor in the spirit of the world; but, “ spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” And, with candid judges, this candour of theirs will be deemed no slight argument of their veracity in general, and no slender proof of the credibility of the scripture history.
Secondly, Remark the mixture of frailty and imperfection which enters into every human character. Moses himself is not faultless. And what is more observable still, he fails on the side of his greatest excellency; he is found weak there where he seemed most strong. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth,” Numb. xii. 3. Nevertheless, what saith the history? He loses temper, and speaks unadvisedly with his lips; “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” xx. 10. He takes glory to himself instead of ascribing it to God: “ Must we fetch you water?” He presumptuously exceeds his commission. He lifts
his hand and smites the rock twice with his rod, whereas he was commanded only to speak unto it, before the eyes of the people.
Seems it not as if God intended to write vanity and shame on all the glory of man, “ that no flesh should glory in his presence?” by showing us faithful Abraham mistrusting his God, and seeking refuge in falsehood: the patient Job growing peevish, and,“
cursing his day:') the affectionate and zealous Peter basely denying his Master; and the meek and gentle Moses waxing warm, and in his haste speaking disrespectfully of God, and unkindly of men. “Be not high minded, but fear." “Let him who thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” “ Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life,” Prov. vi. 23. “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips," Psalm cxli. 3.
Observe, thirdly, The delicacy and the danger of assuming a latitude and a liberty in sacred things. In what concerns the conduct of human life, and our intercourse one with another as the citizens of this world, many things must be left to be governed by occasion and discretion, but, in what relates to the immediate worship of God, and where the mind of the Lord has been clearly made known, to assume and exercise a
dispensing power is criminal and hazardous. The tabernacle must be constructed, to the minutest pin and loop, according to the pattern delivered in the mount. If Uzzah presume to put forth his hand to support the tottering ark, it is at his peril. A holy and a jealous God will be served only by the persons and in the manner which he himself has appointed; and the intruder into sacred offices and employments is ready to be broken in upon in hot displeasure. Has God said,
Speak to the rock.” Who has the boldness to strike it? Moses dares to do it; and his rashness forfeits his title to a part and lot in the promised inheritance. Into Canaan he shall never enter, but only see it at a distance with his : eyes. The offending, chiding, murmuring congrega- . tion is pitied, forgiven and relieved. The offending, hasty, presumptuous prophet is punished. “Our God is a consuming fire." " It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me; then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.”
Remark, in the fourth place, The rashness and folly of man shall not, cannot render the purpose of God of none effect. A whole people shall not be permitted to perish for thirst because the prescribed mode of relief has not been exactly followed. Though the rock be stricken, instead of being spoken unto, it shall not fail to yield the promised fountain of water. Moses is frail, but God is good. There has prevailed, since the beginning, a strange contention between the folly and perverseness of the fallen apostate creature, and the wisdom and goodness of the gracious Creator. And, glory be to God, our evil is overcome of his good. And when all struggle and opposition are at an end, when the will of God shall finally prevail,“ and every high thought shall be brought into captivity to the will