« PreviousContinue »
of Christ,” it shall then be found, “ that the wrath of man” has all along been “ working the righteousness of God; that the elementary strife which was permitted to take place in the natural world; the jaring, discordant passions which seemed to convulse and disturb the moral government of God, and even the infernal devices of the powers of darkness, were all, without their design, nay, contrary to their intention, carrying on the great plans of the divine providence to their consummation. Glorious, transporting thought! I will henceforth command my troubled soul into peace. I will calmly wait the issue, and leave it to the great God, in his own time and way, to explain the reasons of his conduct, and fully vindicate his ways to men. The troubles which I see, the troubles which I feel, the troubles which I fear, though they may come nigh, shall not overwhelm my soul; “I shall not be afraid when I hear of evil tidings; my heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord," Psalm cxii. 7. “ We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” Rom. viii. 28. “ For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory,” 2 Cor. iv. 17.
Fifthly, When we behold a holy and righteous God thus severely punishing, what may be deemed, by some, a slight offence, in one of the dearest and best of his children, let none dare to trifle with his justice.
If Moses, in one rash moment, by one unadvised step, * incurred a displeasure which he could never remove, and forfeited an inheritance, which he never was able to recover, what hast thou, O man, to expect, whose whole life has been an accumulation of offence; has been the addition only of sinfulness to weakness, and of presumption to folly? “ If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” i Peter iv. 18. Take care how you estimate the malignity, guilt and danger of sin, by the erroneous and fluctuating standard of your own weak understand. ing, or still weaker passions. Not according to these, nor the maxims of the world, nor the prejudices of a misguided spirit; but by a steadier rule, by an unchanging law, thou shalt be judged, and finally justi. fied or condemned. If Moses lost an inheritance in an earthly Canaan for neglecting to give glory to God in one instance, tremble to think of being eternally excluded from “ the inheritance of the saints in light, for ten thousand offences of the same nature. Beware of reckoning any transgression small, any sin venial, any temptation contemptible. Behold the mighty fallen, and be humble.
It is truly affecting to find Moses in the sequel car.. nestly entreating a remission of the sentence, but entreating in vain; and, when unable by supplication to prevail, submissively resigning himself to the will of God. But the world has seen a still more awful demonstration of God's displeasure at sin. When the Lord laid upon the head of the great atonement "the iniquity of us all; it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and put him to grief.” “God spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all.” Is it possible to conceive a motive so cogent to abstain from evil, and even from the appearance of it; and to loathe and put off from us the garment spotted with the Aesh?
But again, one offence, though it may provoke the anger and call down the chastisement of a holy God, breaks not off all intercourse, and for ever, between him and a good man.
With the firmness of a wise and just father, he denounces the punishment and in. flicts it. With the tenderness and love of a gracious and relenting parent, he carries on the correspondence; and even admits the offending child to closer intimacy, and to familiarity more endearing. For the great God is not like them who mar and embitter their pardon with hard conditions, cruel upbraidings, and inortifying recollections; and who plainly show, that
though they may be capable of forgiving, they know not what it is to bury injuries in everlasting forgetful
The conduct of Moses too, under the weight of this awful displeasure, is amiable and instructive. He mutters not, with sullen Cain, “my punishment is greater than I can bear;" he sinks not into dejection; he replies not in resentment. While he deprecates the penalty, he attempts not to extenuate the guilt of his crime; and though well assured he is not to have the honour of conducting Israel into Canaan, nor the happiness of enjoying a personal possession in that promised inheritance, yet he withdraws himself from no particular duty, relaxes not his diligence, cools not in his zeal: he labours to the last, does what he can, though he be not permitted to do what he would; he fore Israel to the land of promise, though access into it was denied him. This, as much as any thing in his history, marks his character and evinces the greatness of his soul. And this teaches a lesson of no mean importance in friendship among men, namely, to cultivate with diligence and assiduity the charities which we have in common, and to suffer those things to rest and sleep, which, if stirred and awakened, are likely to disturb and separate us.
It is not the design of Providence that we should think exactly the same way on all points. But, shall I agree with my brother in nothing, because we happened to differ in one thing?
I detain you till I have made only one remark more upon the whole history. The distress of the cattle for want of water, is mentioned as a circumstance of importance both in the books of Exodus and Numbers, and it is especially attended to in the miraculous re, lief which Heaven provided. Is the great. God degraded, when he is represented as “caring for oxen, and feeding the ravens, and hearing
lions when they cry?" No, no; these minuter views of his providential care and kindness, endear him but the
more to the understanding that discerns, and the heart that feels. I know not a more tender stroke of the pathetic eloquence than that which we have in the
prophecy of Jonah, when God extended mercy in a manner peculiar to himself, to Nineveh, that great and sin
“ Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six-score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?” Jonah iv, 10, 11.
One stage more will bring us with Israel to the foot of Sinai, to observe and to improve one of the most notable dispensations of Providence upon record; “The giving of the law." But here let us pause, with devout acknowledgment of that bountiful hand, which fed the seed of Abraham immediately from the clouds for forty years together; and which feeds us, through rather a longer process, by blending and compounding the qualities and influences of earth, air, fire and water. While we adore the providential care which refreshed Israel by streams from the rock, let us rejoice together, that it refreshes us by keeping our rivers ever flowing, our fountains constantly supplied, and the clouds of our atmosphere, in their season, always impregnated with the rain and the dew. “With the bread that perisheth," gracious God! grant us that " which endureth to life eyerlasting.” Amen.
HISTORY OF MOSES.
Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephi
dim. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in inine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek:- And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to passwhen Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses's hands were heavy; and they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat thereon: and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. EXODUS xvïi 8-13.
NOTHING can be more afflicting to a humane and serious mind, than to reflect on that strife and contention which have in every age deluged the world with human blood. Who could believe, if all history did not prove it, and who can think of it without horror, that men should be continually lying in wait, like beasts of prey, to catch and devour men; that the strong, the cunning and the fierce should be for ever on the watch, to take advantage of the weak, the simple and the gentle? And must it be? Farther of mercies! must it needs be, that war should continue to waste the nations? Shall the earth be for ever a field of blood?