« PreviousContinue »
fting out of death. Undoubtedly, when an object fo important and a doctrine so instructive can by whatever means be impressed upon the heart, we ought not too squeamishly to reject applications and illustrations of this fort. In order to promote the ends of true piety, what though we relax a little of the laws of rigid criticism? If imagination serve as an handmaid to virtue and devotion, let men be as fanciful as they will. If a serious soul be edified or comforted, shall I mar his joy and disturb his tranquillity by forcing him to comprehend the meaning of Greek and Hebrew particles? Whether it be warrantable or not to give this evangelical turn to the passage before us, its moral intention and import will hardly be disputed. It exhibits the reluctance which men feel to encounter affliction, their impatience and unreasonableness under it, the wise design of Providence in afflictive dispensations, namely to co prove men, whether they will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord their God, and do that which is right in his fight.” And finally, it illustrates the power, wisdom and goodness of God in counteracting one natural evil, by another evil; making poison serve as an antidote to poison, and healing the greater plague of sin by the less, that of suffering.
Some commentators have conjectured, that it was about this very spot that Hagar was relieved and supplied with water, she and her son, by the angel of the Lord, when they were banished from Abraham's house; and they reprove the incredulity of the Israelites by the example of her faith. After all, it was undoubt. edly a very severe trial; whether we consider how much water, sweet water, is connected, not merely 'with the convenience and comfort, but with the very existence of human life; the immense quantity neceffary for the support of such a vast multitude of men and women, besides cattle ; or the peculiar demand occafioned by a vertical fun and a parched soil. We pass on from Marah as men, and as the inhabitants of more favoured regions, praising God, “who walks upon
the less, there have conje e relieved anas the
ng out of death. Undoubtedly, when an object fo
sportant and a doctrine so instructive can by what.
the clouds,” and refreshes us from heaven above; ir means be impressed upon the heart, we ought
gushes upon us in a thousand streams of limpid com
fort from the earth beneath, and gently flows through t too squeamishly to reject applications and illustra
every field in a tide of delight; and as christians we ns of this sort. In order to promote the ends of
flee for refuge and refreshment to that wonderful Man, le piety, what though we relax a little of the laws
described in prophetic vision in such, beautiful figures rigid criticism? If imagination serve as an handmaid
as these; “ A man shall be as an hiding place from virtue and devotion, let men be as fanciful as they
the wind, and a covert from the tempest: as rivers of 1. If a serious soul be edified or comforted, shall l
water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock r his joy and disturb his tranquillity by forcing him
in a weary land."* Gold, silver, and precious stones, omprehend the meaning of Greek and Hebrew par
are produced in small quantities, and are of difficult 28? Whether it be warrantable or not to give this
and dangerous investigation. And happily the life of ngelical turn to the passage before us, its moral in
man consists not in such things as these. Whereas ion and import will hardly be disputed. It exhibits
the things which really minister to human comfort, reluctance which men feel to encounter afliction,
and constitute the real support of human life, are poursimpatience and unreasonableness under it, the wile
ed down upon us with unbounded profusion. The n of Providence in afflictive dispensations, namely
choicest blessing which ever was bestowed upon the prove men, whether they will diligently hearken
world, is common and free to all as the water in the
stream, as the light and air of heaven. e voice of the Lord their God, and do that which ht in his fight.” And finally, it illustrates the
But though the bitter waters are sweetened for presa
ent use, Israel must not think of continuing encamp: r, wisdom and goodness of God in counteracting
ed by them. atural evil, by another evil; making poison terve
They are to be but the transient re
freshment of the way-faring man, not the stated supantidote to poison, and healing the greater plague
ply of the land of promise. Whatever we have atby the lefs, that of suffering.
tained, whatever we enjoy, the voice of Providence me commentators have conjectured, that it was
still summons us away, saying, “ Arile ye and depart, this very spot that Hagar was relieved and lupa
for this is not your rest." with water, she and her son, by the angel of the
Their next journeying is from Marah to Elim, when they were banished from Abraham's houle;
where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and hey reprove the incredulity of the Israelites by
ten palm-trees; and they encamped there by the war : After all, it was undo ample of her faith.
ters.” In the preceding station, their provision was very severe trial; whether we consider |
partly from nature, partly from the kindness of a gra. water, sweet water, is connected, not merely
cious Providence, Nature furnished the substance, a le convenience and confort, but with the very
miracle endowed it with the suitable qualities. ce of human life; the immense quantity nec
But at Elim, nature seems to do the whole, with her the support of such a vast multitude of mena
56 threescore and ten palm-trees, and twelve wells of , besides cattle ; or the peculiar demand occae
water.” And what is nature, but the great JEHOVAHI sy a vertical sun and a parched soil. We pa
performing the most astonishing wonders in a stated | Marah as men, and as the inhabitants
' and voured regions, praising. God, “who walks u
* Isaiah xxxi. 2.
and comfort, ne quantifyen and
and regular course? Water issuing from a rock when (mitten by à rod, is not in itself a whit more miraculous than the continually supplying one little stream from the fame spring. Being arrived at Elim, they encamped “ by the waters. The word “ Elim" standing in our version untranslated, is generally con. fidered as the proper name of a place; but it is by fome, and with a great appearance of reason, render. ed, " the forests." This is supported by a passage of Strabo,* the famous geographer and historian of Cap. padocia, to this purpose; that “ at five days journey from Jericho there is a forest of palm-trees, which is held in great veneration throughout all that country, on account of the springs of water which are found there in great abundance." The numbers twelve and leventy in the sacred text, instead of fignifying a determinate quantity, may undoubtedly denote indefinite. ly according to a license common in all languages, a large abundance. And then the account of Strabo, and the narration of Moses, will mutually confirm and strengthen each other. Two writers of no less eminence and credit than Tacitust and Plutarch, i plainly allude to this passage, when they say that “ the Jews, being ready to perish with thirst, happily discovered springs of running water." *But, instead of settling the geography of the spot, and the import of the word Elim, let us look into the fact recorded, and through it into the volume of human nature. “They encamped there by the waters.” The self-fame spirit which murmured at the taste of a bitter stream, disposed them to seek repose by the side of one that was sweet and placid. Mistaken in both, a carnal mind is easily unhinged and foon satisfied. Like. children, they are put out of humour with a straw, and presently pacified they know not why; and behold unbelief lying at the root of both one and the
other. * Lib. xvi. † Hist. Lib. V. # Tom. II. Sympos. Lib. IV.
d regular course ? Water ifluing from a rock wheri itten by a rod, is not in itself a whit more miracü. is than the continually supplying one little stream in the same spring: Being arrived at Elim, they camped “ by the waters." The word “ Elim" nding in our version untranslated, is generally con. cred as the proper name of a place; but it is by ie, and with a great appearance of reason, render. Co the forests." This is supported by a passage of bo,* the famous geographer and historian of Cap'ocia, to this purpose; that " at five days journey n Jericho there is a forest of palm-trees, which ! 1 in great veneration throughout all that country, account of the springs of water which are found e in great abundance." The numbers twelve and 11y in the sacred text, instead of signifying a deterite quantity, may undoubtedly denote indennit cording to a license common in all languages, a : abundance. And then the account of Strabo, the narration of Moses, will mutually confirm and gthen each other. Two writers of no les em. e and credit than Tacitust and Plutarch, I plainly e to this passage, when they say that “ the Jemen ready to perish with thirst, happily discovereu s of running water." ł, instead of settling the geography of the ipos le import of the word Elim, let us look into, corded, and through it into the volume of! ature. " They encamped there by the wate Il-fame spirit which murmured at the talle Aream, disposed them to seek repose by the 1 that was sweet and placid. Mistaken in. al mind is easily unhinged and loon lat hildren, they are put out of humour w and presently pacified they know not why, unbelief lying at the root of both one and,
other. Now, eager to get home before the time: by and by drowning all thoughts and hopes of it in the bauble of the present hour. See Israel at one time difconcerted and chagrined to find that the wilderness did not produce every thing to a wifh; at another, ready to forego the prospect of Canaan for Egypt, and to accept the land of dates and water for that flowing with milk and honey. Never did any good come of fitting down contentedly in temporal poffefsions. No fooner do men become easy and comfortable in their circumstances, than they grow capricious and fantastical in their wishes and defires. If Providence visit them not with fcarcity, or unpleasantness of water; their own restless appetite fhall visit them with an absurd and unreasonable craving for fesh. The fruit and shade of the palm-tree, and the deliciousness of a fresh spring, please not long. Put an end to novelty, and farewel delight. But a month and fourteen days have elapfed, fince with so much joy they quitted the house of bondage : and they are weak and wicked enough to wish themselves thither again. And why? because, in a march of a few short weeks at most, through a wild and desert country, they wallowed not in the profusion of Egypt, which they were obliged to purchase at the price of their liberty and blood.
When we hear of such an universal mutiny, for it was not the murmuring of a few factious discontented fpirits, but of the whole congregation of Israel, what have we not to fear froin the just resentment of a holy and righteous God, thus insulted by mistrust and unbelief? We find him immediately taking up the cause, and, in a manner peculiar to himself. Wonder, o heavens, and be astonished, 0 earth. 6 And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold I will rain"--what? Fire and brimstone from heaven, upon this generation of incorrigible rebels, until they be utterly coníumed? No but " I will rain bread from heaven upon you." Is this thy manner with men, O Lord God ? Surely,
enough to winage : and ther.ch joy they qu
? and soon fatisfied
* Lib. xvi. Hist. Lib. V. I Tom. II. Sympof. Lib. IV.
“ it is of thy mercy we are not consumed; because thy compassions fail not,”
The historical fact which follows, as the accomplishment of this promise, is one of the most singular upon record ; and so mixes itself with the leading objects of the New Testament dispensation, that it well merits a separate and particular consideration.
Being arrived at another of the great epochas, or periods of ancient history, the going out of Egypt ; we shall make a brief recapitulation of the whole, from the beginning. The first great period of the history of the world, is from the creation down to the deluge; containing the space of one thousand fix hundred and fifty-six years; and a succession of eight lives, from Adam, to the six hundredth year of Noah. The second is, from the flood to the call, ing of Abraham, and contains four hundred and twenty-seven years; and a succession of ten lives, from the hundred and eighth year of Shem, the fon of Noah, to the seventy-fifth of Abraham, the father and founder of the Jewish nation: fix of the patriarchs, after the flood, being now dead, Noah, Phaleg, Rehu, Serug, Nahor, and Terah ; and four of them still living, Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, and Heber. So that one life, that of Shem, connects the antediluvian world, and the call of Abraham. For he was ninety-eight years old before the flood came ; and lived till Abraham was one hundred and fifty, and Ifaac fifty years old. The third grand period of the world, containing four hundred and thirty years, commences on the fifteenth day of the month Abib, which answers to the end of our April, or the beginning of May. And some learned chronologists have undertaken to prove, from the scripture history and astronomical calculations, that Abraham departed from Haran, the paschal lamb was facrificed in Egypt, and Christ expired upon the cross, as the propitiation for the sins of the world, on Calvary, in the identical month of the year, day of the month, and hour and minute of the day. This pe