Page images
[ocr errors]

the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. "Fear not, O Ifrael, the Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy fhade upon thy right hand. The fun fhall not fmite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord fhall preserve thee from all evil; he fhall preserve thy foul. The Lord fhall preferve thy going-out, and thy coming-in, from this time forth, and even forevermore."t

* Pfal. lxxxiv. 11.

+ Pfal. cxxi. 5-8.




Hiftory of Mofes.


EXODUS xiv. 21, 22.

And Mofes ftretched out his hand over the fea; and the Lord caufed the fea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the fea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Ifrael went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

IN the little benefits which men confer upon each other, it generally happens that fome untoward circumftance infinuates itself, and occafions, to one of the parties at least, mortification, difappointment or difguft; for nothing human is perfect. A gracious action is frequently refented as an injury, from the ungracious manner in which it is performed. I am charmed with both the matter of that kindness fhewn me, and the affectionate difpofition which prompted it; but alas, it arrived an hour too late! Another prevented my wifhes; and I prized not the bleffing, becaufe I was not inftructed in its value by feeling the want of it. This favour done me is very great; but it is not precifely the thing I looked for; or, it is fo clogged with fome unpleafant condition, that I would rather be without it: it affords me prefent relief, but will it not involve me in greater difficulties hereafter? Had I failed in my expectations from this quarter, I fhould eafily have gained my end by


applying to another friend. In a word, there is a perpetual fomething, in the friendly communications of men, which continually mars the worth of what is given and received. And no wonder, if we confider that favours are not always granted from affection, nor accepted with gratitude. But the bounties of Heaven poffefs every quality that can enhance their value, and endear their Author to a fenfible heart. Infinitely valuable in themselves, they flow from love. The "good and perfect gifts, which come down from the Father of lights," are given "liberally, and without upbraiding." Exactly what we need, they come precifely at the moment when we want them most, or when they are moft beneficial to us. Worthy of God to bestow, they cannot be unworthy of us to receive. Were he to withhold his gracious aid, in vain should we look for relief from any other quarter. Productive of present fatisfaction and joy, his benefits involve us in no future diftrefs, fhame or remorfe. Serviceable to the body, they are at the fame time improving to the mind. Important and interefting for time, they have an influence upon eternity.

The gracious interpofitions of Jehovah, in behalf of his chofen people, have this peculiar recommendation to our attention, as to that people's grateful obfervation and acknowledgment-that they were not in the ufual courfe of things; they were the fruits of the conftant and unremitting care of a special providence; they were the fufpenfion or alteration of the established laws of nature; they were the operation of a mighty hand and an out-ftretched arm, fenfibly controlling the winds, the waves and the clouds; and fubduing the most ungovernable elements to its purpofe. Other parents are endued with transitory affections and attachments, fuited to the tranfitory nature of the truft committed to them. The hen tends her unfledged brood with the vigilance of a dragon and the boldnefs of a lion. But maternal tenderness and anxiety diminish and expire with the occafion of them,

I 2

them, namely, the weakness and inexperience of her When the fon is become a man, pateryoung ones. nal care relaxes, and parental authority is at an end. But, as the authority of our heavenly Father never ceafes, fo his bowels of compaffion are never restrained; his vigilance is never lulled to reft, his care never fufpended; because his offspring is, to the last, impotent, improvident, imperfect.

[ocr errors]

În vain had Ifrael, by a feries of miracles unparalleled in the annals of mankind, been refcued from Egyptian oppreffion, had not the fame almighty arm which delivered them at firft, continued to protect and fupport them. The ftrength of Egypt, broken as it was, had been fufficient to force them back. The wilderness itself had been fatal to them, without a foe. How eafily are the greatest deliverances forgotten; how foon are the most awful appearances familiarized to the mind! The very first threatening of danger effaces from the memory of these Ifraelites all impreffion of the powerful wonders which had juft paffed before them, and eclipfes the glory of that cloud which, at that very inftant, prefented itself to their eyes, and overfhadowed their heads. But, let not felf-flattery impofe upon us, as if we were more faithful and obedient than they were. It is the mere deception of vanity and felf-love to fuppofe, that " if one were to arife from the dead, we would be perfuaded;" that if we faw a miracle wrought, we would believe; that if we heard Chrift teach in our streets, we would "forfake all and follow him." The man, whom the ufual appearances of nature do not move, would foon become infenfible to more uncommon. phenomena. For, extraordinary things frequently repeated, are extraordinary no longer, and confequently foon lofe their force. If the daily miracles of God's mercy and loving-kindness fail to convince men, what reafon is there to hope, that mere exertions of power would produce a happier effect? If Christ, fpeaking by his word and miniftering fervants,


be treated with neglect, is it likely that his perfon would be held in veneration? If men "hear not Mofes and the prophets, neither will they be perfuaded though one rofe from the dead."* Is it not notorious, that Chrift's perfonal miniftrations were flighted, his miracles vilified, his character traduced?

Whofe conduct is the more abfurd and criminal, that of Pharaoh, in pursuing after and attempting to bring back a people who had been a fnare and a curfe to himself and his kingdom; or that of Ifrael, in trembling at the approach of an enemy, whom God had fo often fubdued under them? Frail nature looks only to the creature; to furrounding mountains, oppofing floods, perfecuting foes: hence terror, confufion and astonishment. But faith eyes the pillar, the refidence of divine majesty, and then mountains fink, feas divide, the chariot and horfeman are overthrown. Every paffion, when it becomes predominant, renders us filly and unreasonable; and none more fo than fear. In danger and diftrefs it is natural, but it is foolish, to impute to another the evils which we fear or feel. It seems to be an alleviation of our own mifery, if we can contrive to fhift the blame of it upon the fhoulders of our neighbour. Hence Mofes is loaded with the imputation of a deliberate design of involving his nation in this dire dilemma, between Pharaoh and the Red Sea, and of felling them to the foe. A high and responsible situation is far from being an enviable one. If things go well, the conductor of the undertaking receives but a divided, a mutilated praife. If an enterprise fail, the whole blame of the miscarriage is imputed to him. The aftonished multitude dare not directly attack God himfelf. No: the cloudy pillar hangs over their heads, ready to burst, in thunder and fire, on the man who prefumed to aim his fhafts fo high. But their impiety feeks the pitiful shelter of a fubterfuge; they murmur against Mofes, because they imagine they can do it with

*Luke xvi. 31.

« PreviousContinue »