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Such is the structure, such the general outline of this inimitable piece of sacred poesy. If what has been said shall induce any one to study it more attentively, he will probably discover beauties which have escaped us; and the discovery will bring its own reward. How many fathers, as they afterwards rehearsed the words of this song in the ears of their children, and taught them the knowledge of it, would recollect with a mournful pleasure, that they saw and heard Moses himself recite it aloud, on the very last day of his life; and glory in relating how near him they stood, and in describing to a new generation the form of his countenance, the deportment of his person, the tones of his voice!
That very day, the warrant of death arrives. The ministry of even a Moses is accomplished, and Providence hastens to convince the world, that, depart who will, the work of Heaven never can stand still. We have seen him hitherto engaged in active labours for Israel and for God. We shall consider him yet once more, dismissed from his service, and concluding a life of eminent usefulness, by a death of charity, benediction, prescience and resignation. May God impress on our minds a sense of our frailty, mortality and accountableness, that we may redeem the time, fulfil the duties of our day and the design of our Creator, work out our salvation, and so die in peace, die in hope, whenever it shall please Him to call us away to the world of spirits. Amen.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of
God blessed the children of Israel before his death, DEUT. xxxiii. 1.
SENECA, the celebrated Roman moralist, was preceptor to the Emperor Nero, and had early and studiously trained him to virtue. But falling under the displeasure of that sanguinary tyrant, he was condemned to loose his life, by being blooded to death. The day of execution being arrived, he prepared to meet his fate with intrepidity, and to die as he had lived, in communicating useful knowledge. His pupils gathered round him, eager to mark his dying deportment, and provided with their writing tables, to record and preserve his last sayings. He was put into the warm bath, the arteries of his legs and arms were opened, and the purple fluid which sustains life, gradually drained off, while his sorrowing, admiring disciples caught the words as they fell from his parched lips.
But a greater than Seneca is here. We are this night gathered round a dying Moses, to listen to the last accents of that tongue which, one excepted, spake as never man spake. We behold him neither impetuously rushing forwards into the mortal conflict, nor tiinidly shrinking from it; but advancing with a steady,
majestic step, to meet the king of terrors. The inter ests of the God of Israel, and of the Israel of God, had employed his thoughts all his life long; and, blended in one, they glow in and expand hischeart to his latest moment. He was speedily to cease from every earthly care, to cease from serving Israel any longer, to be occupied with God only; but even in death he is contriving the means of doing good to that dearly beloved, that fondly cherished people. As if his heart had relented at the harshness of some of the expressions which fidelity and a sense of duty had ex. torted from him; like one unwilling to part with them under any semblance of unkindness or displeasure, he again assumes the tender father, tunes his tongue to the law of kindness, buries all resentment of the past, and every thing unpleasant, in the prospects of futurity, in the gentleness and benevolence of friends who were separating to meet no more.
The soul that is at peace with God desires to be at peace with all men; and it is meet that dying breath be sweetened with mercy, forgiveness and love. Slowly and solemnly as Moses advanced to meet his latter end, would we accompany his steps in his last progress through the beloved tents of Israel, and in his ascent to the hill, from whence he never should return. With a heart like his, overflowing with charity to the whole church of God, and filled with sentiments of peculiar affection towards you, we behold the approach of that hour which is to disperse us, perhaps too for
With a blessing on our lips, like him, and O that his God and ours may make it effectual, we are hastening to bid you farewell.
The words which I have read are the beginning of the 54th and last parasha, or great section of the law, into which the whole books of Moses were subdivided, for the conveniency of publicly reading them, in conjunction with the prophets, every sabbath-day; a custom which prevailed in the Jewish church, down to the
times of our Saviour and his apostles, as we learn from several passages of the gospel history. Thus Christ himself, when“ he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, as his custom was, went into the synagogue on the sabbath-day, and stood
up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagog ue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears, » Luke iv. 16-21. Thus James, in determining the question in the synod of Jerusalem, concerning the necessity of circumcision, says, “ Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath-day,” Acts xv. 21. And Paul and Barnabas, when “they came to Antioch, in Pisidia, went into the synagogue on the sabbath-day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and breth
have any word of exhortation for the people, say on,” Acts xiii, 14, 15.
The first section begins with the opening of the book of Genesis, and goes up to the ninth verse of the sixth chapter, and is called Bereshit, the first word in the Hebrew bible. The second begins at these words in the sixth chapter, “ These are the generations of Noah:” and is thence called Noah, and ends at the beginning of chapter twelfth, which sets out with the wall of Abraham, and is therefore styled the section
Lec Leca, i. e. “Get thee out,” and so of the rest. To bring the whole fifty-four divisions within the compass of the year, they joined two of the shortest into one reading Thus the whole constitution, both as to civil and sacred things, was publicly rehearsed once every year; so that it was impossible for any decent Israelite to be grossly ignorant of either the laws, the history, or the religion of his country.
The first public lecture was on the sabbath that followed the feast of tabernacles, and went on till the anniversary of that feast returned. I have mentioned these circumstances for several reasons. I am not ill pleased to have so respectable an example for attempting a mode of instruction, which reason and experience convince us to be at once the most pleasant and the most useful. I honour human learning, I admire great talents, I am enchanted with eloquence; but I am persuaded, if saving knowledge be communicated, it is by the quick and powerful energy of God's word coming, not with the allurements of man's wisdom, " but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power." This leads us to express a wonder why the reading of the scriptures by large portions at a time is not universally practised in christian congregations. Surely there must be a better reason for neglecting it, than that it is enjoined by the canons of the church, and is in
general practice in the establishment. The last reason I have at present to render for this digression, if it be thought one, is its affording me an opportunity of earnestly recommending to masters and mistresses of families, the regular and progressive use of the scriptures, within the precincts of their private households, for the instruction of their children and servants. I am well aware that from a diffidence and humility not too severely to be blamed, some younger heads of families are tempted to neglect family worship altogether, because some parts of it they cannot, dare not, undertake: that for example, of addressing God in prayer, as the mouth of their domestic little church. Let