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History of Moses,

EXODUS X

LECTURE XIV.

EXODus xvii. 1, 2,-5,6. And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed

from the wilderness of Sin, after their journies, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephi. dem : and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water, that we may drink. And Mofes faid unto them, Why chide you with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? And the Lord said unto Mofes, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel and thy rod, wherewith thou linotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou malt smite the rock, and there hall come water out of it, that the peos ple may drink." And Mofes did so in the fight of the elders of Israel. I HE reconciliation of interrupted friendship is one of the chief delights of human life. The extatic pleasure of meeting again, after long absence, persons whom we dearly love, obliterates in a moment the pain of feparation ; and one hour of sweet communication compensates the languor, solicitude, and gloom of many years. After an interval of five months, I return, to converse with Moses, and to talk of him to you, with the satisfaction of one who has been upon a long journey, and, returning home, finds again those

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whom he left, those whom he loyes; and finds them
such as he wishes them to be. Let us, my dear
friends, with increased ardour, affection, admiration
and gratitude, renew our intimacy with the venera-
ble man to whom we are indebted for so much ration-
al pleasure, and for so much useful instruction. Mo-
ses, thou prince of historians, sublimelt of poets, fages
of legislators, clearest-fighted of prophets, molt ami,
able of men! To thee we owe our knowledge of the
ages beyond the flood! Thou first taughtest to string
the sacred lyre, and to adapt the high praises of God:
to the enchanting concord of sweet sounds. By thee,
king in Jelhurun, all succeeding princes have been
instructed how to govern ; and lawgivers are formed
to political wisdom and fagacity, By thee, Jews were
led to expect, and Gentiles are encouraged to rejoice
in Messiah, the great prophet, after thy fimilitude ;
by whom alone, thou art excelled, And by thee,
sweetelt, meekest, gentlest of mankind, the endearing
charities of private life are most engagingly exempli-
fied, and most powerfully recommended.
But chiefly thee, O Spirit! thee only, we adore,

- Who didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning, how the heavens and earth

Rose out of chaos.”?.
Whatever wisdom we may have learned, whatever
pleasure we may have enjoyed, whatever comfort we
pofsefs, whatever hope we feel-all, all is of thee,
pure, eternal, unchanging source of light and life and
joy.

Moses, in the passage of his writings which I have now read, is carrying on his own interesting, eventful history. At the head of the myriads of Israel, he is now pursuing his march from Egypt to Canaan, following a guide who would not mislead them, and whom they could not mistake ; protected by a power, which, like a wall of fire, bid defiance to every threat. ening foes and from day to day supplied by a bounty incapable of being exhausted. All these present

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and fingular advantages, had the sweetness of hope mingled with them. They had just escaped from the most humiliating and oppressive of all servitude, and they were hastening to the inheritance of their fathers : yet we find them a people as peevish, irritable, and difficult to plcase, as if they had never known adversity, and as if they had just issued from the lap of ease and indulgence. To day, the bread is dry and Itale; to-morrow, the water is bitter; the third day, there is a scarcity of it. The water is sweetened; manna descends ; quails fall around their camp ; but there is still ca cruel fomething unpofsessed," and all that went before is forgotten; all that is in pofsession becomes insipid, Bestow on the ungrateful person nine hundred and ninety-nine favours, and withhold the thousandth, and all you have done for him is lost. The present pressure always seems the heaviest. Mouldy bread and brackish water in the wilderness, are considered as eyils more intolerable than all the rigours of slavery in Egypt.

Where does this cenfure fall? On that moody murmuring race, the Jews, and on them only? Alas! it overwhelins ourselves; it bears hard, not upon in. dividuals here and there, but upon mankind! We ex. pect more from the world than it poslibly can bestow; and, when we discover its insufficiency, we charge God foolishly; and because we have not every thing that we with, we are satisfied with nothing. Solacing our. selves, like Jonah, under the shadow of a gourd, we fancy it is a perennial shelter. We see not the worm which is gnawing its root; and when it is smitten down and withers, we are ready to fay, with the ful. len, tefty prophet, “ We do well to be angry."

Bui, was the want of water a Night evil? And, is it finful to complain under the pressure of a calamity like this? And, was this the first time Ifrael had been in distress, and found relief? Who was it that sweeten. ed the waters of Marah? Who divided the Red Sea ? Who rained bread from heaven? And, who ever

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mended his condition by murmuring and discontent? Had God intended to destroy that people, why all this exertion of a strong hand, and stretched-out arm to deliver them? God in the failure of our earthly comforts intends not our mortification and ruin, þut our wisdom and improvement. He thereby teaches us our dependence; it summons us to the obfervation of his providence ; and levels, not the hope and joy, but the pride and self-sufficiency of man.

Water! precious fluid ! infinitely more valuable than the blood of the grape, than rivulets of oil, or honey from the rock ; refreshed, fustained every mo: ment by thee, we are every moment wafting, neglect ing, forgetting thee. We prize thee not, because of .. thy rich abundance; and, because thou enterest into every other mean of food and comfort, thy importance is unobserved, thy benefits forgotten. May I never know thy value from the want of thee. · « There was no water for the people to drink.'? Wherefore the people did chide with Mofes, and faid, Give us water that we may drink. And Mofes said unto them, Why chide you with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord ?" If in their calmest moments men are often incapable of reasoning justly, and disc tinguishing accurately, is it any wonder to find them, in the very tide and whirlwind of passion, acting foolifhly and unreasonably? Who would enyy pre-eminence such as that which Mofes enjoyed ? Is glory obtained ? He comes in but for a moderate share, Is blame incurred, or distress felt? All is imputed to him. To what a severe trial was the temper of this meekest of all men now put!. What so proyoking as to meet with censure when we are conscious of meriting praife? What fo galling as to have the calamities of others charged upon us as crimes ; to be accused as culpable, merely because we have been unfortunate ? Surely the great are set in “ flip

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XIV

. XIV, pery places ;” and “ uneasy must the head lie that wears a crown.”

We see Moses flying in the hour of danger, whither the people ought to have fied in the hour of their affidion. “He cried unto the Lord.” Religion opens a refuge when every other refuge fails; and it administers a remedy to ills otherwise incurable. I tremble for the life of Mofes. He trembles for himfelf. They are almost ready to stone me.” The voice of Jehovah is again heard, and Moses is in fafety. But I tremble now, for these murmuring, unbelieving, rebellious Ifraelites : Is not the thunder of His indignation going to burst out? Is not the fire hastening to consume? Or, is the earth going to open her mouth, and swallow them quick up into the pit? Behold a solemn preparation is making! But it is an arrangement of love. It is the voice of God I hear: but it speaks mercy and peace. The tremendous rod of God, wherewith he bruised and broke Egypt, is again employed; but not as the instrument of punishment to Ifraël. It smites, not a sinful people, but the finty rock; and it draws forth, not a stream of blood from the heart of the offender, but a stream of water to cool his tongue, and to restore his fainting soul. Surely, O Lord, “thy ways are not as our ways : for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are thy ways higher than our ways, and thy thoughts than our thoughts."* « Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, feverity ; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodnefs : otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." Aftonithing instance of the power and sovereignty of the Moll High! The same rod which {mote the river, and it became blood, smites the rock, and it becomes streams of water. Who is to be feared, who is to be trusted, but the God wlio can do these great things?

How honourable had it been for Israel, to have had this stage of their marching through the wilderness,

distinguished * Ifa. lv. 8, 9. + Rom. xi. 22.

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