« PreviousContinue »
great purposes of Heaven were accomplished, till the descent of the promised seed was ascertained! From that period genealogy was, as it were, broken into ten thousand fragments, the connexion and succession of families were blotted out, as a thing of nought; and a new family was established on different principles, in endless succession, all claiming and holding of this “first-born among many brethren.”
As Aaron is represented in the possession of the most pleasing powers of speech, to soothe the woes of Israel, so we see him armed with a tongue sharp as a two-edged sword, to smite and to break the pride of Pharaoh and of Egypt; and bearing a potent rod, endued with power to deliver or to destroy. And in this the world is taught to respect, to revere the weakest, meanest, most contemptible weapon, which the hand of Jehovah vouchsafes to use. İts virtue lies not in itself, but in the arm that wields it. Through the whole of the astonishing transactions which follow, we find an exact order and method observed. Aaron uses not the rod at his own discretion, neither does God communicate his pleasure immediately to him; but the Lord gives the word to Moses, who delivers it to Aaron, who follows the instructions given him. And thus, by an example of the highest authority, we are instructed, in obedience to an injunction given long after under another dispensation, " that all things be done decently and in order."
The next memorable event of Aaron's life, after assisting in the plagues of Egypt and the consequent deliverance of Israel, is his contributing to the defeat of Amalek, by aiding Hur in supporting the weary hands of Moses his brother upon the mount. To the observations already made on this part of the history, I have only to repeat and to urge upon your minds the reflection of the Psalmist, “Behold how good a thing it is,” in every point of view, “and how pleasant, for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psal. cxxxiii.
1. By concord the weakest powers grow and stand: through disunion the strongest are dissolved and fall.
Aaron and his two eldest sons, with seventy of the elders of Israel, by divine appointment, accompanied Moses to the lower region of Mount Sinai, when he went up to meet God, in order to receive the civil and religious constitution of the state: and with them, as the federal heads and representatives of the nation, the political union and covenant were ratified and confirmed. And this brings us forward to the eventful period of Aaron's history, his solemn destination to the office of priesthood, his preparation for it, and his investiture in it.
The appointinent was of Heaven; for “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron,” Heb. v. 4: and even a king, in latter times, who presumed to thrust himself into the priest's office, paid the price of his rashness, by a leprosy which cleaved to him till the day of his death, 2 Chron. xxvi. 16–21. “Take thou,” says the great Source of all honour and authority, “take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons,” Exod. xxviii. 1. It has been objected to Moses, as a proof of a selfish and worldly spirit, that he employed his authority, to perpetuate a station of the first dignity and emolumient, in his own tribe and family, by the appointment of Aaron to the priesthood, and by the entail of it, u pon his posterity for ever. But surely the objectors níust have studied the case very superficially. The Friesthood, though of high dignity, possessed very sleneler emoluments, and still less authority. It subjected, the possessor of it to much painful attendance, to much Jaborious and much unpleasant service, considered as a mere secular employment. It was a post, if of dis$inguished honour, so of high responsibility. But supVOL. II.
posing it were as lucrative and honourable as it is alleged, why did not Moses assume it to himself? Why did he pass by his own sons? Why not secure the reversion, at least, for his own children and their heirs? When a man has immediate descendants of his own body, he is seldom solicitous about the agrandisement of more distant relations, especially to the prejudice of his own children. The conduct of Moses, therefore, in the disposal of this high office, on the supposition that he had a choice in the matter, is the reverse of selfish; it is generous and disinterested to the last degree. The dignity of magistracy is, in his own lifetime, communicated with Joshua; and, at his death, is wholly transferred to him. The office of high-priest is conferred upon Aaron, and made perpetual to his branch of the family; while the sons and descendants of Moses sink into the rank of private citizens, without the stipulation of so much as a foot of land, extraordinary, in Canaan, in consideration of their father's eminent services. Does this look like avarice and am- . bition? But the truth is, Moses had no choice at all in the case, and presumed to exercise none. God had declared his will, and that was sufficient to him, and will be so to every good man.
If we attend to some lines in the character, and some steps in the conduct of Aaron, we shall fnd more just reason of surprise at his appointment to this sacred office. We behold him, at the very era of his appointment, an abettor of idolatry, and even after his instalment in it, we find him meanly ad wickedly envying the distinction which was put upon his meek and gentle brother, and with his sister Miriam, heading a revolt from his just authority. But, alas! were perfect men only to minister before God, the altar must soon be deserted. Were not sinful mento be addressed by sinful men, the world must speedily be destitute of preachers. “But we have this trea sure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the pow.
er may be of God, and not of us,” 2 Cor. iv. 7. The design of Providence, from the beginning, seems to have been to convince the world that in every hand his work must prosper; that if he interpose, all instruments, the most inadequate, must prove powerful, and shall succeed.
A few remarks on the particulars of Aaron's sacred dress, the services in which he was employed, his solemn consecration to the performance of them, and the subsequent events of his life up to the age of one hunded and twenty-two, together with a cursory view of his typical importance, as the figure of the great High-Priest of our profession, shall, with divine permission, furnish the subject of the next Lecture. We conclude the present with earnestly, exhorting you,
-To be instructed by the history of Aaron to begin to live betimes: if not to public observation, utility and importance, at least to the purposes of piety, and to the duties and virtues of the private man and of the citizen. He lived long in obscurity, before he arose into distinction, and was nurtured in the school of affiction, for station and eminence. And it is generally found that those persons fill high and difficult situations most respectably, who arrive at them through painful study, many obstacles and much opposition. It was late, very late in life with him, before he began to appear on the great thcatre: let none be thereby deluded into the vain, deceitful hope of living long. The instances of a longevity so vigorous, and so extended, and so distinguished, are too rare to encourage any one to trifle with the season of improvement, to neglect the present hour, to presume on a distant, uncertain futurity. Old age, should you be one of the few who attain it, never can be supported with dignity, nor enjoyed in comfort, if youth be wasted in dissipation, be permitted to rust in ignorance. In order to possess the vivacity and soundness of youth, under the pressure of years, a portion of the reflection, steadiness and composure of age, must be called in, to temper and direct the pursuits and enjoyments of early life.
-It is natural to be dazzled with the display of shin. ing talents, and to envy the possessor of them. But these, also, are the portion of only a favoured few. The eloquence of an Aaron is, perhaps, more rarely to be found, than a man of a hundred and twenty-two years old. Covet, then, and cultivate the virtues which are attainable by all, and are in themselves infinitely more valuable than the gifts which are bestowed more sparingly, which do not always prove a blessing to their owner, and are not always accompanied with true good. ness, which alone is in the sight of God of great price. Has an indulgent Providence, however, distinguished you by those rarer accomplishments, which lead to fame, to honour, to usefulness? See that you bury them not, pervert them not, abuse them not. Ability, unsupported by worth, by moral excellence, only renders a man more odious and contemptible, as well as more dangerous, more mischievous and criminal. He is re. sponsible both to God and man, for the use or abuse of his superior powers: and to be conspicuously criminal and wretched is a dreadful aggravation of guilt and misery. “Covet earnestly the best gifts:" and yet it were easy to show unto you “a more excellent way." If you know it, happy are you if you pursue