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Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God," 1 Cor. i. 18-24.
The virtue flowed from the divine appointment, operating together with the believing act of the patient. To the sufferer who averts his face, or wilfully and contemptuously shuts his eyes, that banner is displayed in vain; no virtue issues from it, he perishes in his unbelief. To the despiser, the impenitent, the careless, Christ has died in vain. In the extension of all God's acts of grace to men, to produce the full effect, there must of necessity be an unity of design and exertion between the giver and the receiver, between him who acts and him who is acted upon. Man's body is “dust of the ground,” mere matter, separated from the spirit, incapable of motion or direction. Even that active, penetrating organ, the eye, is but a little lump of pelucid clay, till the vital principle, the breath of God, kindle its fires, and direct its rays. It is this vital principle which, proceeding from God, exists in him, and possesses the power of rising and returning to him. The believing Israelite hears, in dying agonies, the proclamation of deliverance, lifts up his drooping head, looks, and is healed; his will meets the will of God, and the cure is already performed. The perishing sinner hears the voice of the Son of God and lives. Lifted up upon the cross he utters his voice, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else," Isai. xlv. 22. One of his fellow sufferers hardens his heart and reviles him, turns from the Saviour with disdain, and dies impenitent—the other hears with rapture the joyful sound, clings to the hope of salvation, prays in faith, and passes with him into paradise.
But the circumstance on which Christ chiefly rests, is Moses “ lifting up the serpent in the wilderness.”
Moses probably had not a clear apprehension of the extensive meaning and import of the act he was performing, any more than the dying men who were the subjects of the cure. They looked no farther than the
present moment, and for relief from a malady which affected the body. But, like the high-priest in latter times, they were prophesying, without being conscious of it. He was erecting, and the congregation in the wilderness contemplating an anticipated represention of the great medium of salvation, which God had appointed from the foundation of the world; and had, in a variety of other predictions, circumstantially declared and described at different periods to mankind. These predictions were slumbering unnoticed, neglected, misunderstood, even by the wise and prudent, in the sacred volume a dead letter, till Christ, their quickening spirit, gave them life and motion, and a meaning which they had not before.
In the scene that passed in the wilderness we behold the shadow of good things to come, a prefiguration of the death which Christ should die. He is here evidently set forth crucified before us,” according to his own words, descriptive of “the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." “ And I, if I be lifted
from the earth, will draw all men unto me,” John xii. 32.
This same idea, we have just observed, had been suggested by the evangelical prophet Isaiah, and a similar expression is put into the Saviour's mouth by that harbinger of the Prince of Peace.
" Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else."
And in another place, speaking of gospel times, “ At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel, Isai. xvij. 7.
Thus was Moses, by what he did, and Isaiah, by what he wrote, pointing out to the world one and the
same great object, Christ Jesus, the end of the law for righteousness; the substance of the types; the accomplishment of prophecy and promise; the bruiser of the serpent's head; the restorer of defaced, defiled, degraded humanity. And thus we are taught to regard with peculiar respect, an event which Providence has, in so many different ways, rendered illustriously conspicuous; the death of Christ, on the accursed tree.
We shall have exhibited to you all that Moses and the prophets, all that the historian and the evangelist have suggested, on the subject of the brazen serpent, when we have led your attention to the impious and idolatrous use made of it in after times. That this illustrious instrument of Israel's deliverance in the wilderness, should be carefully preserved, as a monument of the divine power and goodness, and by length of time acquire venerability and respect among the other valuable memorials of antiquity, is not to be wondered at. But every thing may be perverted; and a corrupt disposition has ever manifested itself in man, to exalt into the place of God, something that is not God. Accordingly we find, about eight centuries from its original fabrication, even in the days of Hezekiah, the brazen serpent exalted to divine honours; and a besotted people rendering that homage to the mean, which was due only to the hand which employed it. The zeal of that pious prince, therefore, is worthy of commendation, who, in reforming the abuses of religion, which prevailed at the time that he mounted the throne of Judah, abolished this among the rest. Regardless of the purpose for which it was at first framed; of the venerable hand which formed and reared it, and of the lapse of so many years which had stamped respect upon it, “he brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan,” 2 Kings xviii, 4, by way of contempt-a piece of brass.
On this part of the history of Moses, Pagan antiquity has founded the fabulous history of Esculapius, the pretended God of Medicine, whose symbol was a serpent twisted round a rod. The learned have, through a variety of particulars, traced the derivation of the fable from the fact; but to repeat them, would rather minister to curiosity than to instruction and improvement. We dismiss the subject, then, with this general remark, that in more respects than is commonly apprehended, and than it has had the candour to acknowledge, is Pagan literature indebted to the sacred volume; that the wisdom of Egypt, of Babylon, of Greece and of Rome is traceable up to this source; that Moses is, of course, to be considered as the father of profane, as of sacred learning, from whom all subsequent historians, legislators, orators and poets have derived the lights which directed them in their several pursuits; that to the pure source of all wisdom, the revelation from heaven, in a word, the world is indebted for the first principles of science, morality and religion; which appear to the attentive and discerning eye through the mist in which credulous ignorance or bold fiction have involved them.
Let us hence be encouraged to revere the scriptures, to search and compare them; to derive our opinions of religious subjects from that sacred source, instead of forcing the truth of God into an awkward supporter of our preconceived opinions. Above all, let it be our concern to regulate our conduct by the laws which scripture has laid down, and to comfort our hearts by the hope it inspires, and the prospects which it has unfolded. Amen.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee up into this
mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered. For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh, the wilderness of Zin.-Numb. xxvii. 12, 13, 14.
THERE is something peculiarly interesting in hearing a plain, honest, intelligent man, without yanity, or self-sufficiency, or affected humility, talking of himself; going into the detail of his own history, with the same fidelity and simplicity as if it were the history of a stranger; unfolding his heart without reserve, disclosing his faults and infirmities without palliation, recording his wise and virtuous actions without ostentation; and relating events, with all their little circumstances, according to the feelings which they excited at the moment.
It is pleasant to see an old man, with his faculties unimpaired, his spirits cheerful, his temper sweet, his conscience clear, his prospects bright; enjoying life without fearing death; blending the modesty and benevolence of youth with the wisdom and dignity of age. There is double satisfaction in hearing such an one de