Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

EXODUS Xxxii. I4. And when the people saw that Mofes delayed to come down

out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods which shall go before us : for as for this Mofes, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden ear-rings which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons and of your daughiers, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden ear-rings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving-tool, after he had made it a molten calf : and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

THE real instances of human folly and extravagance far exceed the conceptions of the most lively imagination. All history, and every day's experience, justify the mortifying account which the prophet gives of our corrupted nature " The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it ?»* The partiality of self-love, and the charity of a kind difpofition, would at times lead us to form a more favourable judgment both of ourselves and of others,

than * Jer. xvii. 9.

History of Moses.

LECTURE III.

EXODUS xxxii. 14. - cc:hen the people saw that Moses delayed to come dess C:ct of the mount, the people gathered themselves topik 21"1.0 Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods und Poll go before us: for as for this Moles, the man that n13ht us no out of the land of Egypt, we wot 106 become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Breaza

golden car-rings which are in the ears of your surting pour fons and of your daughters, and bring them wita : And all the people brake off the golden europiane vich were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaroko at he received them at their hand, and fashionta ha graving-tool, after he had made it a molten caf they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought up out of the land of Egypt.

than we deserve. The form of fin, seen in its nakedness, is so hideous, that we shrink from it with horror ; but use familiarizes the spectre; and we are insensibly led to bear, to be, and to do that which once we abhorred. Could a prophet have foretold one half of the irregularities, the excesses, the enormities of our lives, we should have deemed the prediction a falsehood and an insult; and, with the resentment of con. scious virtue, we should have been ready to exclaim in the words of Hazael, « Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing ?" Yet alas! the event has wofully verified the cruel imputation ; and exhibited the man fallen from his excellency, become the very monster he justly detested; the man funk into an object of pity, of fcorn, or of detestation to himself and to mankind.

Many practices appear to us absurd and unnatural merely because we are not accustomed to them. Herodotus relates, that Darius, king of Persia, having assembled the Greeks who were under his command, demanded of them what bribe they would take to induce them to eat the dead bodies of their parents, as the Indians did ? Being answered, that it was impossible for them ever to abandon themselves to so great inhumanity, the king, in the presence of the fame Greeks, demanded of some Indians what consideration would prevail with them to burn the dead bodies of their par. ents, as the Greeks did? The Indians expressing the utmost horror, entreated the king to impose upon them any hardship rather than that. Among the Hottentots, the aged, so long as they are able to do any work, are treated with great tenderness and humanity; but when they can no longer crawl about, they are thrust out of the society, and put in a solitary hut, there to die of hunger or age, or to be devoured of wild beasts. If you expoftulate with them upon the savageness of this custom, they are astonished you should reckon it inhuman : " Is it not much greater cruelty,” they ask, “ to suffer persons to linger and

languish

real instances of human folly and extravagance ped the conceptions of the most lively imag.com All history, and every day's experience, juus tifying account which the prophet gives o ** upted nature-" The heart is deceitful above 's, and desperately wicked: who can The partiality of self-love, and the charity ofition, would at times lead us to form a m

judgment both of ourselves and of others,

than

* Jer. xvii. 9.

languish out a miserable old age, and not put an end to their wretchedness, by putting an end to their days ?”

Idolatry is one of those practices, to our apprehenfion, fo foolish and unreasonable, that we wonder how it ever obtained footing in the world ; and with difficulty are we brought to believe the avidity with which whole nations have given into it. The particular circumstances of the Israelites in the wilderness, render their proneness to idol worfhip peculiarly monstrous and unaccountable. The chain of miracles which accompanied their deliverance from Egypt ; that constant symbol of the divine presence which attended them, the pillar of fire and cloud; the daily miracu. lous supply of bread from heaven; the recent anathema pronounced against the worship of images from the dreadful glory of Mount Sinai ; the fcrupulous care employed, if we may use the expreilion, to exhibit no manner of fimilitude of the Deity in Horeb, to prevent the pollibility of a pretence to use, themselves, or to transmit to poiterity any sensible repre. sentation of the invisible God; all these, superadded to the plainest dictates of common sense and reason, clothe with a blackness and malignity not to be expressed, the strange conduct which is the subject of this chapter..

Mofes, foreseeing the length of his absence in the mount, had wisely delegated his power to Aaron and Hur, that the operations of government and the administration of justice might suffer no interruption. God, the great God, was now vouchsafing to employ himself in prescribing a mode, and a ministry of worship for his Ifrael, which should possess all the pomp and fplendour displayed by the nations in the service of their false gods, together with a sacredness and dignity peculiar to itself. He was preparing to gratify their very senses by external shew, as their fouls by heavenly wisdoin. He was planning a tabernacle, eltablishing a priesthood, and appointing festivals and

facrifices,

[ocr errors]

ious ithin themselves... finful impatief religion men

bread in and cloud.cs, which attended

[ocr errors]

languish out a miserable old age, and not put an enk to their wretchedness, by putting an end to their clars ?"

Qolatry is one of those practices, to our apprehen. En, fo foolih and unreasonable, that we wonder how

cver obtained footing in the world; and with difi-..y are we brought to believe the avidity with which hole nations have given into it. The particular cirE ilances of the liraelites in the wilderness, render vir proneness to idol worhip peculiarly monstrous Junaccountable. The chain of miracles which ac

panied their deliverance from Egypt ; that conEnt lymbol of the divine presence which attended

91, the pillar of fire and cloud; the daily miracu. slupply of bread from heaven; the recent anath

pronounced against the worship of images from dreadful glory of Mount Sinai; the fcrupulous employed, if we may use the expression, to exno manner of fiinilitude of the Deity in Horeby event the pollibility of a pretence to use, them, or to transmit to poiterity, any sensible repres con of the invitible God; all these, superaddeu

piainell dictates of common sense and realoll, with a blackness and malignity not to be , the strange conduct which is the lubject of poter. 's, forcieeing the length of his absence in the

hrad wildly delegated his power to Aaron and ut the operations of government and I 101 of justice might suffer no interruptiolla ? Great God, was now vouchfasing to employ 7 prescribing a mode, and a ministry of Wola Is Itrael, which should poffefs all the pomp Tour diplayed by the nations in the lervice ble gods, together with a sacredness and alga ar to itlelt. He was preparing to 8

enfcs by external fhew, as their idom. He was planning a tabert

priesthood, and appointing ter

facrifices, whose magnificence should leave them nothing to regret in the glory which they had seen in Egypt; and, at that very time, they are employing themselves in devising and executing a plan of religious service; equally disrespectful to God and dishonourable to themselves..

Their guilt begins in finful impatience and presumption. In matters both of life and of religion men greatly err, when they take upon them to carve for themselves. “ Vain men would be wise, though man be born like a wild afses colt.”* The transition is so sudden that it seems incredible. Not many days are past since they had given the most solemn, explicit and unreserved consent to the whole of the divine law. "All that the Lord hath faid will we do, and be obe. dient:"t. The treaty had been but just ratified by a covenant, a sacrifice, and a feast, with a solemnity not easily to be forgotten. The noise of the mighty thunderings has scarcely ceased; the ineffable glory of the God of Jsrael is yet present to their eyes; they have not well recovered from the terror inspired by that voice which made heaven and earth to‘tremble. Yet even thus circumstanced, as one man they fly to the appointment, not of a new leader and commander, though that had been ingratitude without a parallel, but with an impiety the most shocking and confounding, to the creation of a new god. And the very first exercise of the power which was committed unto Aaron for the public good, is to be the leader, the abettor, and an example, in practising the abominations of that country from which they had been so happily de-. livered.

" And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods which shall go before us: for as for this Mofes, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.”I VOL. IV. D

There * Job xi. 12. + Verse 7 . I Verse 1.

posterilence to use

helt dictates and malish is the 2009

[ocr errors]

the trackneís a common fact, iuperadded

mewn as their fouls by

mning a tabernacle, et nd appointing festivals and

facrifices,

Find deploraf making

not move,

There is a fottishness, a madness, as well as a wickedness in certain vices, which, at first sight, we should deem inconsistent with each other. The irrationality of the brute, the frenzy of the lunatic, and the malignity of the demon, here discover themselves at once; and leave us perplexed which we are most to wonder at and deplore. What shall we say of the stupidity which talked of making gods, and of following that as. a guide which itself could not move, but as it was car. ried ? With what notes of indignation shall we mark our abhorrence of that base ingratitude which could Ipeak contemptuously of such a benefactor as Moses : 55 This Mofes, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him ?"* With what holy resentment must we execrate the spirit that could deal thus perfidiously, presumptuously, with God?

After we have vented our anger and astonishment upon the conduct of these vile liraelites, let us pause and examine ourselves. Afierted by a strong hand and a stretched-out arm into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, have we never reverted in thought, in desire, in practice, into that very thraldom of sin from which the Son of God came to set us free ? Lying under the weight of benefits much more precious, and bound by engagernents equally folemn and explicit, have we never swerved froni the path of duty, never lost sight of our vows, never failed in our obedience? With so much clearer and fuller discoveries of the being, nature and will of the one living and true God, have we feared and loved him, and only him ; have we never bowed the knee to mammon, never worshipped in the house of Rimmon, never kissed the image of Baal? Alas, alas! we hate and condemn some fins merely because they are not our own, while we stand chargeable in the sight of God and man, with equal or greater offences of a different kind; fo blinded as not to perceive, so felf-deluded as not to feel their enormity.

* Verse 1.

[ocr errors]

kind; to with equal chargeab?

to feelnded al or

« PreviousContinue »