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Must the peace of private families, and the repose of kingdoms, be eternally disturbed by lust and pride, avarice and ambition, envy and revenge? Blessed God! send forth the Spirit of thy Son into the hearts of men. Prince of peace ! command this troubled ocean into a calm. Spirit of love! put a full end to bitterness and wrath. Subdue this carnal mind, which is enmity against God. Glorious gospel of salvation! as thou bringest good-will from God to men, restore good-will to men among themselves.
It is difficult to say whether men suffer most from their own folly, or from the cruelty and injustice of others. We generally find, that when evil from without would, for a while, permit wretched mortals to breathe and be at peace, they perversely become selftormentors, and ingeniously contrive sources of vexation to themselves. And, which is the greater evil of the two? That, undoubtedly, of which we are the authors to ourselves. We have, then, to encounter an enemy from whom we cannot hope to escape, and whom we are unable to overcome. From a conflict with Amalek, Israel comes off with both credit and comfort; but a strife of discontent, impatience and rebellion against God, must of necessity issue in shame and loss.
God, rich in mercy, slow to anger, and of great kindness, has graciously forgiven the murmuring at Horeb, and extracted water from the rock, for the relief of his people. But this wo is no sooner past than another overtakes them. “ Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.” The transaction recorded here, so simply and uncircumstantially, is mentioned again in Deuteronomy, with many circumstances of aggravation, which greatly increase our detestation of this conduct in Amalek, and explain the deep resentment which a holy and righteous God himself expresses upon the occasion, and which by a positive statute he transmits to Israel. « Remember what Amalek did
unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it,” Deut. xxv. 17, 18, 19.
Amalek, the father of this nation, as we learn from Genesis xxxvi. 12. was grandson to Esau, and son to Eliphaz, by a concubine named Timna. The Amalekites indeed are mentioned much earlier in scripture, even in the days of Abraham, when Chederlaomer is represented, with his victorious army, as ravaging all their country. But it is well known that the sacred writers, when treating of various periods, give appellations to regions and countries which did not belong to them till ages afterwards, but by which they were better known at the time when the historian wrote. They possessed a large tract of country, extending from the confines of Idumea to the eastern shore of the Red Sea; and from their neighbourhood to and commerce with Phænicia, they are by some called Phænicans.
Immediately on their passing through the Red Sea, it behoved the children of Israel to enter into this ter. ritory, on their way to Canaan. And probably the paternal relation which subsisted between them and Amalek, encouraged the posterity of Jacob to advance on their way with greater confidence. " It is the land of our brethren through which we are to pass, would they say, one to another. "The heart of Esau himself relented, when he saw his brother Jacob return, encumbered with a train of women and children and cattle. He forgot his resentments; he became the protector of the man whom he had, in the hour of passion, vowed to destroy. The injury done him
in the matter of the birth-right, and of the blessing, he generously forgave. Surely the posterity of Esau, after many generations, will not revive a quarrel which is extinguished and forgotten, first in the reconciliation, and then in the death of the original parties to it. After a servitude so long and so bitter in Egypt, we shall at length find a time and a place to breathe; and the soothings of fraternal love shall console us for the rigors of oppression.”
Vain expectation! What foe so dreadful as a brother disaffected! Egypt smote with the rod; Amalek smites with the sword; he basely, cruelly seizes the moment of Israel's langour, weakness and dejection, and at. tempts to crush those whom a sanguinary tyrant had persecuted, and whom Heaven itself had bruised. The cowardice of this behaviour is equal to the unkindness of it. Had they boldly appeared at the first, to dispute the passage of the Red Sea, and to repel by force of arms the invasion of their country, their conduct, though ungenerous and unkind, had been ingenuous and manly. But, either through fear or policy, they permit Israel to advance, they watch the moment of their difficulty and distress, and, like dastards, steal upon the rear of an army whose front they dared not to oppose.
Neither good qualities nor bad are found single in the human breast. And, in the nation whose character is now the object of our censure, we find a combination of the worst qualities of which our nature is capable, all originating in the deficiency of one great principle, which is at the root of all the evil which men commit, “ he feared not God.” Why did Amalek rake up the ashes of an ancient grudge? feared not God.” Why did he join to afflict the miserable, and overwhelm the oppressed?" He feared not God.” Why did he meanly attack the weaker and more vulnerable part of his adversary, in hope of safety and impunity?“ He feared not God.” Where
fore in general, are men subtle, revengeful, cunning and selfish? They “fear not God;" they“ harden themselves against him," and yet think “ to prosper.” They “ love not their brother whom they have seen,” because they are wilfully ignorant of or hate God, " whom they have not seen."
Such is the union which Providence has established between all the parts of the natural and of the political body, that the weakness or distress of one member is the infirmity and suffering of the whole. The hindmost and the feeble of Israel are smitten; the foremost and the strong feel and immediately resent it.
6 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in mine hand.” We have here a combination which ought never to be separated, and in which safety and success are ever to be found, namely, the acknowledgment of Heaven, and the use of appointed means, the sword in the hand of Joshua, the rod in that of Moses, the embattled host below in the valley, the intercessor with God “wrestling,” and “ making supplication” upon the hill. In vain had Moses prayed if Joshua had not fought. Destitute of the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man,” the skill and courage of the warrior had failed before the enemy. The rod of God! in how many different services is it employed! how many various purposes does it answer! It smites the river of Egypt, and it becomes blood. It smites the rock in Horeb, and it sends forth a stream of water. It is extended towards heaven, on the top of the hill, and Amalek is destroyed. Striking and instructive type of that “ rod of God's mouth” wherewith “ he slays the wicked:” of that sword of the Spirit, < which is the word of God: of that hammer, which breaketh the rock in pieces:” of that gospel, which is “ a savour of God in them that believe, and in them that perish.
Observe how God appoints to every man his station
of usefulness and importance. It was not for want either of zeal or courage, that Moses takes his a distance on the hill. It is not for want of piety, that Joshua leads on the armies of Israel on the plain. The mistakes and miscarriages of the world arise from the weakness and wickedness of men; at one time over-rating their talents, and thrusting themselves for. ward into situations for which they are wholly unfit; and at another, through timidity shrinking from the duties of that station which providence has assigned them; and a third, treacherously, through some bias of private interest, passion or party, selling the trust committed to them, to the foe. Happily in the case before us, the head which directed, and the hand which executed, were in perfect unison. The spirit that fought, and the spirit that prayed, were one.
Let us first ascend the hill with Moses and his two friends, and adopt the feelings of men, who at once felt for the public cause, were not without well-founded apprehensions from the common enemy, and at the same time feared and trusted the Lord. Moses has given his orders to Joshua, and he has so far done well: but to stop there had been doing nothing. He has set the means to work, and now he can confidently look up to Heaven for that blessing which can give success to the means. He ascends to meet God, but ascends not alone. As wickedness seeks to fortify and to keep itself in countenance by the society of the wicked, so the fire of devotion keeps itself alive by the sacred communication of a kindred flame. The hands of Moses alone had soon become feeble, and must have dropped down, and Amalek finally have prevailed; supported by Aaron and Hur, they continue" steady till the going down of the sun;;' and Amalek and his people are discomfited with the edge of the sword.
Of Aaron, one of the companions of Moses upon the mount, we know much; of Hur, the other, the