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Mofes by entreaty obtains a fhort reprieve for the offenders; but a plain intimation is given that they fhould not pafs wholly unpunished. "In the day when I vifit, I will vifit their fin upon them."* The meaning of this threatening is fully explained in the fequel. All that generation of men were blotted out of the book of the living; their carcafes fell gradually in the wilderness; they were not permitted to fee the good land promised to their fathers; plague upon plague overtook them, till they were confumed for their idolatry; of the worshippers of the golden calf not one entered into Canaan.
God had hitherto condefcended to conduct and defend Ifrael, in that wonderful fymbol of his presence, the pillar of cloud and fire. Provoked by their rebellion, their Protector and Guide withdraws from them, and they are left to pursue their march, through paths of their own choofing. The adage fays, "Whom God means to deftroy, he firft infatuates." Had it run more fimply, "Whom God means to destroy, he firft forfakes," it had been jufter and more confonant to the tenor of fcripture. When Jehovah has withdrawn as a friend, he is not far off as an enemy. But what must it have been to one who felt like Moses, to be commanded to proceed to the conqueft of Canaan, deftitute of the prefence and fupport of God, the glory and the ftrength of Ifrael? It was like fending a fhip into a tempeftuous ocean, without ballaft, without a maft or fail, without a rudder or compass, to be driven at the mercy of every blaft; and laid under the neceffity of finking in the mighty deep. Mofes apprehends the full extent of an attempt fo perilous, and deprecates it with all the energy, of fupplication. He apprehends no ill, fave one, that of being deferted of God. He trembles at no foe, but their best friend eftranged.
The wretched multitude now fee their nakedness, and are afhamed. In vain do gold and jewels attempt
* Verfe 34.
to hide the deformity of a foul that has loft its innocence. They were not more eager, the other day, to contribute their ornaments to the formation of an idol, than they are now to hide them out of fight, as the monuments of their difhonour. "What fruit have they now in thofe things whereof they are afhamed?" A face of mourning is feen over the whole camp, and every face is clothed with defpair. Direction is given to remove the tabernacle without the camp. A few who had continued faithful, adhere to that divine inftrument of protection, and follow it. The cloudy pillar, which, during the period of riot, fedition and revolt, had in wrath departed, returned to its deftined refidence, the tabernacle. In the eyes of aftonished Ifrael, Mofes enters undifmayed into that manfion of divine glory, proceeds to meet God, as a man to meet his friend; renews the conference in the plain, which had been broken off on the mount, The refult is, God graciously relents, being mindful of his covenant, and again undertakes the fafe conduct of his people, "My prefence fhall go with thee, and I will give thee reft," and all again is peace. And thus conclude the controverfies between disobedient and gainfaying children, and their tender-hearted, relenting Father, He is not to be "overcome of evil, but overcomes evil with good."
But what is this I hear? Mofes foliciting for ftill farther manifeftations of the divine perfections? Who had feen, who had heard, who had felt and enjoyed fo much of God as he? And yet ftill he is importu nately entreating, "Lord, fhew me thy glory." O my friends, how inany things of God do "angels ftill defire to look into ?" There is a breadth, and length, and depth, and height, in the love of Chrift, which paffeth knowledge." The refponfe of the oracle to this requeft, is not lefs extraordinary than the request itfelf. And he faid, I will make all my goodnefs pafs before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the
* Chap. xxxiii. 14.
Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will fhew mercy on whom I will fhew mercy. And he faid, Thou canst not fee my face for there fhall no man fee me and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou fhalt ftand upon a rock. And it fhall come to país, while my glory paffeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock; and will cover thee with my hand, while I pafs by. And I will take away mine hand, and thou fhalt fee my back parts: but my face fhall not be feen."* This opens a field of meditation too ample to be now entered upon. Let it be referved for the entire ground of another evening's excurfion into the region of feripture: and let us contemplate with wonder the fcene which has juft paffed before our eyes.
-Does the whole ftory feem to any one incredi. ble? Let the horrid fcene which this great metropo. lis exhibited not many years ago,t arife upon his recollection. Let him think on the frenzy, which, like a mighty torrent, carried every thing before it; which fired the city, overawed the fenate, and threatened the diffolution of all regular government. Who can tell the dire effects which defperate enthusiasm, fuddenly bursting out and exciting univerfal terror and confternation, may produce. Had we not feen it with our eyes, we could fcarcely have believed, that confequences fo momentous fhould have iffued from a fource fo contemptible. The refolutions and operations of a lawless multitude are truly formidable, Unoppofed, they rush on as an overflowing flood; refifted, they melt away; they are scattered like chaff driven by the wind.
-Obferve, O man, how the moft difficult leffons of religion, patience, and forbearance, and forgivenefs, are taught thee by the example of the great Jehovah himfelf. Dareft thou to think of vengeance for a petty, a mifconceived, and imaginary offence, when
Chap. xxxiii. 19-23.
when thou beholdeft the most glorious of all beings, paffing by, blotting out the most heinous, the moft unprovoked infults, and when thou hearest him proclaiming his name, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful, and gracious, long-fuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and tranfgreffion and fin ?" "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourfelves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is anine; I will repay, faith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in fo doing thou fhalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."* "I fay unto you, love your enemies, blefs them that curfe you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which defpitefully ufe you and perfecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his fun to rife on the evil and on the good, and fendeth rain on the juft and on the unjuft."t
"Follow on to know the Lord." Expatiate in nature's ample field, and you will find profit and inftruction blended with delight, Explore the wonders of eternal Providence, and you will fee conftant caufe to rejoice in the thought that there is a GOD who judgeth and ruleth in the earth. Dive deeper and deeper into thofe myfteries of grace which "angels defire to look into," and break forth into fongs of joy, that "GOD is love." "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jefus Chrift whom thou haft fent." Now " we know in part, and we prophefy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part fhall be done away."§
Nature now prefents in every plant, in every pebble, myfteries that defy the researches of the wifeft and moft acute; then "the way-faring man, though a fool,"
*Rom. xii. 19, 20, 21.
a fool," fhall comprehend fyftems the vastest, most complex, moft abftrufe. Providence now exhibits an apparent inconfiftency and diforder, which confounds the reasoning pride of man; then, God will fully vindicate his ways to man, obviate every difficulty, refolve every doubt, remove every fcruple. In fcripture "are fome things hard to be understood," in our present ftate of ignorance and imperfection; then the veil fhall be removed, and "we shall fee face to face," "then fhall we know even as also we are known." Then the promised Spirit of wisdom and revelation fhall "teach us all things, and bring all things to our remembrance." Then fhall he "open" our "understanding," that we may "under, ftand the fcriptures." "Amen, even fo, come Lord Jefus !"