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ous, unnatural and ungrateful conduct. But the offence was not expiated when Miriam was struck with leprosy, and Aaron thereby tacitly reprehended; when Miriam was restored, and Israel permitted to move forwards. Transgressors often flatter themselves that surely the bitterness of death is past, when a righteous God is but awaking to vengeance; and it is not seldom found, that between crimes and punishments there is such an apparent affinity, that the criminal can. not but read his guilt in the evil which overtakes him; and the world is made to 6 see,” not only “the rod,” but “ him that hath appointed it.”
Six years have elapsed, from the sedition of Aaron and Miriam, when a similar conspiracy is formed to discredit the government of Moses, and the priesthood of Aaron, by certain turbulent, envious and ambitious men of their own tribe, in confederacy with some of a similar spirit of the tribe of Reuben. So widely and so suddenly has the malignity of revolt. spread itself, that no less than two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown, with their adherents, have been in fected by, it: and Aaron has his large share of that obloquy, which he had before so unjustly employed, to weaken the hands, and to blast the reputation of his brother. But ah! my friends, a leprosy of seven days could not wash away the stain of this transgression, neither could the blood of one unhappy victim make atonement for a crime in which so many were involve ed. The Lord creates “ a new thing,
a new thing,” to mark the severity of his hot displeasure. When Moses had made an end of denouncing the judgment of God, it came to pass the “ground clave asunder that was under them: and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and, all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them; and they perish
ed from among the congregation. And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense,” Numb. xvi. 31-33, 35., A plague broke out among the people, which, before it was stayed by the interposition of the high priest himself, offering incense between the living and the dead, had consumed fourteen thousand seven hundred.
Whai, 0 Aaron, were now thy feelings, surveying a field of blood so dreadful and so extensive! What were thy feelings in reflecting that for the very offence which thou thyself hadst committed, Miriam was a leper, and thousands were slain! Did not thy heart tremble, as the sword of the destroying angel laid heaps upon heaps, whilst thou stoodst in the fearful gap, lest its keen edge should reach thyself?
It is remarkable that the enormity of the greater crimes which Aaron committed, was exposed by the judgments wherewith God visited similar crimes in others, not in himself; whereas, for an apparently lighter transgression, his life was irrecoverably forfeited, and he fell under a doom, which no penitence nor supplication could alter or avert. We cannot judge of the malignity of crimes from certain external circumstances. Both in the good which men do, and the evil they commit, God principally regards the heart and intention; but to discern and to judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart, is a prerogative, which with awful propriety he has reserved to himself.
God has punished the defection of Korah and his abettors in the most open and exemplary manner. Not satisfied with this, because the memory of judgments the most signal and alarming, is apt speediiy to be obliterated—such is the thoughtfulness and folly of men!--he was pleased to appoint a lasting memorial of the preference which he had bestowed on Aaron and his family, and to confer a fresh badge of distinction on the man whom he delighted to honour, Moses is directed to take of each of the tribes of Israel a several rod, and to inscribe every one with the name of the prince of that tribe to which it belonged, writing the name of Aaron on that rod of the tribe of Levi. They were to be laid up together over night before the Lord, in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, and previous intimation was given to all concerned, that by the next morning, God would give an explicit and unequivocal declaration of his will, respecting the office of priesthood.
The God whom we adore, would rather make him. self known by the wonders which he performs, and the mercies which he dispenses, than by the judgments which he executes. It was fulfilled accordingly. The rods of the eleven other tribes remained as they were deposited; separated from the parent stock, sapless, withered, and dead; but the rod of Aaron, as if it had been still a branch united to a living root, and by a progress of vegetation infinitely more rapid than nature knows, in the course of one night, “ brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds." Numb. xvii. 8. And lo, a miracle as great as a lifeless twig bringing forth fruit, the fierce and angry spirit which acts of just vengeance had but irritated, is by a., miracle of kindness and condescension, mollified, melt. ed, subdued, extinguished: and thus necessary are signs and wonders to silence and persuade murmuring, unbelieving Hebrews, as well as to render inexcuseable impenitent Egyptians.
This mark of preference having been openly exhibited, for the conviction and satisfaction of all, commandment is once more given to carry back this wondrous rod, and to deposit it by itself before God, with the other sacred furniture of the most holy place, to serve to latest posterity as one of the precious monuments of the divine favour to their forefathers. It is highly probable, that it always preserved that verdure to which it was thus preturnaturally restored; and is
a lively image of the constant preservation of the universe, by that all-powerful Word which spake it into existence at first; of the continued support of life, by the merciful visitation of that Spirit who “breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul,” Gen. ii. 7.
Aaron, thus again distinguished and honoured of Heaven, continues to enjoy the dignity, and to perform the duties of the priesthood for thirty-one years longer; we doubt not, with credit to himself, and to the satisfaction and advantage of all Israel. But, alas! he has the mortification of seeing that people gradually and imperceptibly wasting away before his eyes; he feels himself the dying minister of a dying congregation; he observes the hand of justice doing that by slow degrees, which it might have accomplished at once, and employing forty years in what it could have made the work of a single moment. At length the stroke of death comes home to his family, and it may. be presumed to his very heart. In the one hundred and twentieth year of his age, and thirty-seventh of his priesthood, Miriam, his sister by nature, his friend by habit and affection, and, sad to think, his companion in offence, is removed to a world of spirits, and he is warned of his own departure, by the loss of one of his nearest and dearest relations. Moses delineates her character with singular conciseness and simplicity. The hand which she had in his preservation, when he was exposed, in early infancy, upon the Nile, procures her an interest in his affection, and in those of his readers, which the blameablessness of some parts of her after conduct is unable wholly to destroy. Our censure of her envy and malignity, in more advanced life, is somewhat softened by the recollection of her childish tenderness, attachment, vigilance and address: and, while we condemn the vehemence of her spirit, and the unruliness of her tongue, the edge of resentment is blunted, when we see her punished there, where a
female is most vulnerable, in the fairness of her looks, and the agreeableness of her person, and we heartily join in the prayer of Aaron in her behalf: “ Alas, my lord, let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed, when he cometh out of his mother's womb;" and in that of Moses himself; “Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.” From thence to the hour of her death, a period of thirty-seven years, the history is entirely silent concerning her, and this is, perhaps, the highest praise that can be bestowed upon her. The sharp reproof which she had received for presuming to intermeddle in public affairs, had taught her, we are bound in charity to believe, that the
post of honour, for a woman, is a private station; that she is then most distinguished, most respectable, most valuable, when the world knows and talks least about her.
That self-same year the fatal summons is addressed to Aaron also, and one brother is made the messenger of death to the other. The same hand which arrayed him in splendid apparel, and consecrated him to the high and honourable office of priesthood, must strip him again, and anoint him to his burying. The whole progress of this solemn scene is highly pathetic and interesting. Let us attend the funeral procession to the top of mount Hor, and learn to die to the vanity and glory of this world, and to cleave, with increased ardour, to that gospel, by which “life and immortality are brought to light,” and to trust in that great HighPriest, who, though he “was dead, is alive, and lives for evermore," and giveth “eternal life to as many as he will."
Death, the most common of all events, at every season, and in whatever form it comes, is tremendous and affecting; but the appearance of death, in the scene before us, is altogether singular and uncommon. It is indeed the death of an old man, but not occasioned by any apparent decay of nature, not preceded by long