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Is it not amazing to obferve on the part of Aaron no reluctance against this horrid propofal; to hear from his lips no remonftrance? Is it thus he difcharges his facred truft? Is this the man whom Jehovah was, in the mean while, defigning to advance, and promoting to the dignity of the priesthood? Many things have been alleged in extenuation of his fault, though nothing can amount to a full vindication of his conduct. The concifenefs of the facred history, it has been faid, may have fuppreffed some of the more favourable circumstances, and exhibited only a general view of the fubject. Some of the Rabbins* pretend that his colleague in office, Hur, had lately been maffacred in a popular commotion for daring to refift the prevailing frenzy; and that Aaron complied, through fear of fimilar treatment, after having thus deprecated the divine difpleafure; "O Lord, I look up to thee, who knoweft the hearts of men, and who dwelleft in the heavens: Thou art witness that I act thus contrary to my own will. Lay it not to my charge."

Others explain away great part. of the criminality, both of Aaron and of the people, by alleging that all they demanded, and all he gave them, was an external object, where they might depofit the homage which they wifhed to render to the Supreme God; and thus they interpret the request of the people, "Make us a fenfible object of divine worship, which may always be before our eyes, and fupply the place of God, when we fhall be told of all the wonders he wrought for us in Egypt." And a learned prelate of our own country labours to prove, that Aaron prefented only a hieroglyphic of the ftrength and power of the Deity, and he produces a few paffages from ancient authors to prove, that the ox was an emblem of royal and sovereign authority, and the horns, in parD 2 ticular,

* In Schemoth Rabba, Sect. xli. fol. 156.

R. Juda, in Lib. Cozri. Part 1. Sect. xcvii. fol. 47.
Patrick, Bishop of Ely, on Exod. xxxii. 4. page 635.

ticular, a common and well known emblem of ftrength.

A fourth excufe has been pleaded in behalf of Aaron, founded on the letter of the facred text. He feigned readiness to comply, according to thefe apologifts, in hope that the demand of their golden ornaments for the fabrication of the idol, acting upon their love of finery, or of wealth, might bring them to a ftand, and break their refolution. But why fet up an elaborate defence for a man who stands condemned by his own brother, who had the best means of information; and for one who himself had nothing, or worse than nothing, to produce in his own behalf, when charged by Mofes with his fault?

Thefe fpoils of the Egyptians had not been obtained in the moft honourable manner. Ifrael" borrowed and paid not again," and it proves a dreadful fnare to them. If they had not carried off the gold, they might perhaps have kept clear of the gods of Egypt. But ill-gotten wealth never was and never can be a bleffing; and unwarrantable devices fooner or later come to entangle the feet of those who use them. Mark, how one rapacious domineering paffion fwallows up many others. "Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire ?" And yet behold the daughters of Ifrael cheerfully facrificing the darling embellishments of their perfons to a mistaken principle of religion! If there be a paffion more violent than another, it is the love of gold in the heart of a Hebrew; but we fee one more violent than even that, the delirium of idolatrous fuperftition.

It is dangerous to have the patterns of evil before our eyes. We foon learn to bear with what we fee frequently; we are infenfibly led to approve what we have learned to fuffer without being fhocked; and what we heartily approve we are not far from adopting. Ifrael has fuftained greater injuries in Egypt


* Auguft. Tom. IV. Quæft. xli. in Fxod. page 118: & Theodoret. Tom. I. in Exod. Quæft. Ixvi. page 3.

than we are at first aware of, and they have been more deeply hurt in their minds than in their perfons. The ftripes of an Egyptian tafk-mafter are healed by the lenient hand of time: but the wounds inflicted by the impure rites of Egyptian idols, are still feftering at the heart, and threaten death.

Aaron is too eager and intent upon his fhameful work, to escape the fufpicion of being hearty in it. "And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving-tool, after he had made it a molten calf and they faid, Thefe be thy gods, O Ifrael, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. All that industry, all that art could do, is employed to confer luftre and value on this worthlefs object; and yet he would have it believed, when he is called to account, that the form and fathion of the idol was the effect of accident, not of defign: "I caft it into the fire, and there came out this calf." What a pitiful figure does ingenious, induftrious wickednefs make, when it ftands expofed, convicted, felf-condemned! But the framing and erecting of this idol is not the whole extent of Aaron's criminality. I am still more fhocked at beholding an attempt to blend with its profane worship, the facred day, the facred ceremonies and fervices of the true God. "And when Aaron faw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and faid, To-morrow is a feast to the Lord." What concord hath Chrift with Belial? An attempt to form fuch an union as this, is more grofsly infulting than even avowed neglect or oppofition. It freezes the blood to obferve a repetition of the fame august ceremonies which were lately employed in the mount, for confirming the grand alliance between the great Jehovah and his people, in the fettling of this ftrange league between Ifrael and a bauble of their own invention. "They rofe up early," as men intent upon their purpofe; the altar is reared, the facrifice is offered up, the peace-offering is provided, the feaft

* Verfe 4.

+ Verse 24.

Verfe 5.

feaft of friendship is prepared and eaten. "They offered burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings; and the people fat down to eat and to drink, and rofe up to play." These last words are fuppofed by fome commentators of note to be defcriptive of a fcene of extreme lewdness and debauchery. And certain it is, that one of the principal inftruments of propagating and fupporting idolatry, was the attraction of beauty and wantonnefs, vilely prostituted to decoy ftrangers into the homage of the impure and worthlefs deity of the place. That people must be in a dreadful flate indeed, among whom religion, the foundation of good morals, the guard of virtue, is employed as a minister to unhallowed pleasure, and a hand-maid to vice.

The prevalence of evil practices is a lamentable thing, but the establishment of wrong principles is much worfe, The wholefomeft ftream may be accidentally tainted and polluted, and work itself pure again; but if the fountain be poisonous, nothing but death can flow from it. "When luft hath conceived, it bringeth forth fin and fin, when it is finifhed, bringeth forth death.Ӡ

-We are now conveyed from this awful fcene of pollution in the valley, to a much more awful scene of meditated vengeance on the mount. While Mofes was folacing himself in the pleasing prospect of being foon difpatched to the people of his charge with meffages of love; while he was rejoicing in the important tranfaction fo lately paft, confident that all was now fettled between God and his people; the joy of this exalted communication is fuddenly interrupted by intelligence of a new, unprovoked and unexpected revolt. "And the Lord faid unto Mofes, Go, get thee down: for thy people which thou broughteft out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themfelves. They have turned afide quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worfhipped it, and have facrificed

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facrificed thereunto, and faid, Thefe be the gods, O Ifrael, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."* An offended God refufes any longer to acknowledge as his, a generation of wretches who had rendered themselves fo entirely unworthy of his flighteft regard. Juftice awakes to a recapitulation of the benefits which they had received and the offences which they had committed, and concludes with a refolution totally to confume them. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

In the dialogue which paffed upon this occafion, fome of the moft interefting objects that can be contemplated present themselves to our view. The condefcenfion of divine friendship: As God would not "hide from Abraham the thing which he was about to do;" would take no step towards the deftruction of Sodom till that friend of God had been fully heard in its behalf; and could do nothing till Lot was departed; fo the fame God, rich in mercy, will not arife to vengeance against Ifrael, till Mofes has been confulted and has acquiefced in the fentence. O the wonderful power of faith and prayer! Mofes is reprefented as poffeffing a conftraining power over omnipotence, the anger of Jehovah refufes to burn till his permiffion is obtained. O the wonderful grace and condefcenfion of the moft high God! Thus is justice ever tempered with mercy: "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not confumed, because his compaffions fail not."†

A propofal is made to Mofes, (and what is too hard for the Lord to perform?) which a selfish heart would eagerly have grasped at; "I will make of thee, fays God, a great nation." But selfishness in this truly great man was controlled by much nobler and more generous principles; zeal for the honour of God, and compaffion for a devoted people.

The interceffory addrefs of Mofes is a master-piece of eloquence, and difcoyers a foul fuperior to all re

* Verfes 7, 8.

+ Lam. iii. 22.


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